6 Scenarios for Business Continuity Plan Testing

Jun 29, 2022
Danya Strait

Formulating a business continuity plan (BCP) is only half the battle. A solid BC strategy needs more than just a well-laid out theory, and business continuity plan testing can help you achieve optimal results.

Can your backup systems withstand a cyberattack? How efficient is your RTO for restoring data? Are your employees familiar with emergency procedures? Do you have an emergency communication strategy to let everyone know about an incident immediately? Business continuity plan testing is the most reliable way to find out, and it is a critical component of continuity planning. By skipping regular testing, you won’t know if your organization is prepared for a disaster—until it’s too late.

In this article, we’ll look at six BCP testing scenarios that will prepare your teams and technologies for the unexpected.

Why Test?

Strategic tests and these business continuity plan scenarios will help you to:

  • Identify gaps or weaknesses in your BC plan
  • Confirm that your continuity objectives are met
  • Evaluate the company’s response to various kinds of disruptive events
  • Improve systems and processes based on test findings
  • Update your BCP accordingly

Without testing your plan, you’re putting both the business and its people at risk.

In fact, over the past few years, 35% of small businesses have lost as much as $500K due to downtime. Having an inadequate plan is just as risky as having no plan at all.

In one of our customer webinars "Making the Case for Testing," we've explored the different ways of getting value from testing by gaining management support, getting IT on board, and building on the BC/DR plan after the exercise.

Testing Your BCP: How Often is Enough?

So, what do you need to test, and how often?

If you already have a BCP, then it must be filled with myriad procedures for various events. But do you need to test everything? And how often do you need to do that? The answer to that depends on your organization’s unique risks, which should be previously identified in a business impact analysis.

For instance:

A company that has more at stake when it comes to disruption, such as revenue loss, operational downtime, or damaged reputation, will typically require more BCP scenarios, as well as running those tests more often. Every organization is a unique entity, and its BCP will differ in scope and priority.

Below, you’ll find business continuity tests that our experts recommend for most organizations that are concerned about their both basic and advanced BC needs. Tailor their suggestions to fit your business needs.

Business Continuity Plan Testing Scenarios

As your team is prepping for those tests, you need to agree on how realistic and detailed you want a test to be.

Testing can present challenges for companies: it requires investing time and resources. With that in mind, it may make more sense to conduct a tabletop test at a conference room, rather than involving the entire organization in a full-blown drill. There are several types of tests, such as a plan review, a tabletop test, or a simulation test, which we explained in detail in our previous post.

1. Data Loss/Breach

One of the most prevalent workplace disasters today. The cause of data loss or breach could vary:

  • Ransomware and cyberattacks
  • Unintentionally erased files or folders
  • Server/drive crash
  • Datacenter outage

Data is mission critical for any company, and losing it can have many serious consequences, such as significantly impacting sales and logistics applications.

The goal is to regain access to that data as soon as possible. Restoring a backup is the solution. However, who’s responsible for that? What’s the communication plan in this case? What are the priorities? Who needs to be contacted right away? Are there any vendors involved?

These and many other questions will be answered during a test.

Safeguard Data & Eliminate Downtime

Data recovery is key to any successful recovery plan.

2. Data Recovery

In this scenario, you need to make sure your BC disaster recovery systems work like clockwork. To do that, run a test that involves losing a bulk of data, and then try to recover it.

Some of the elements you’ll need to evaluate will include your RTO, and whether your team met its objectives. Besides, was there any damage to the files during recovery? If your backup was stored in the cloud, did you come across any issues? Include all critical activities to be performed in a BCP scenario.

3. Power Outage

Let’s imagine there was a power outage due to a recent storm. The utility company reported that the power wouldn’t be back up for a few days. What do you do?

First off, your incident response team needs to coordinate among themselves and communicate with the rest of the company.

  • How will you notify your workforce about the incident? Who’s expected to come in the office, and who’s able to work remotely?
  • Which departments get affected the most and thus need immediate relief (e.g., accounting, logistics)?
  • Do you have a backup power generator? Do you or anyone on the team know how to use it?
  • Do you have an arranged office or mobile recovery location?

Answers to these questions must be covered in your BCP. And running a test will confirm that everyone’s on the same page.

4. Network Outage

Power outage inevitably leads to a network outage. However, network outages can happen with electricity still being on, and they could last indefinitely. In such scenarios, many businesses rely on a work-from-home strategy that isn’t reliable for an extended period. When working from home, many employees have various distractions that affect their productivity.

So, during your test, verify the following points:

  • Does everyone have access to their work systems?
  • Is everyone aware of the security measures to take while working remotely (VPN, safe network connection, etc.)?
  • What is the plan for network restoration?

Answers to these questions also need to be specified in your business continuity plan.

5. Physical Disruption

Fire drills are one of the most critical company-wide drills that must be completed annually. There may already be local fire code compliance in your area, but if not, it’s vital to conduct a fire drill regardless.

Similar to a fire drill, you can test disaster recovery response to other situations, like natural disasters (e.g., earthquake, tornadoes, storms) or other critical situations (active shooter, bomb threat, etc.). These exercises will help familiarize everyone with emergency procedures and safety steps to take.

6. Emergency Communication

Being able to communicate during a disaster or an emergency can provide a lifeline. Yet, the most disruptive events—hurricanes, floods, tornadoes—are very likely to leave you with no traditional means of staying in contact.

For these scenarios, your plan needs to outline the actions to be taken. An emergency notification system is the most efficient means of immediate communication for a company of any size. Regularly update the contact information of everyone in your contacts database, so that all of the employees receive timely notification. Additionally, create templates for every disaster scenario to streamline to process.

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