- Protective Security
- Security Projects & Initiatives
- Passport to Good Security - Guidance for Senior Executives
- Business Continuity
18. Business Continuity
Your risk assessment and mitigation measures should enable you to cope with a security breach or incident and return to normality quickly. This is particularly important for smaller businesses that may not have the resources to withstand even a few days without trading.
The business continuity pages outline a number of issues to consider and steps that can be taken to enable your organisation to return to ‘business as usual’ in the quickest possible time after an incident.
Questions you need to address:
- Does your organisation have an existing Business Continuity Plan? Who owns it, how often is it reviewed and updated?
- How are business continuity issues communicated to security managers?
- Is there a full and accurate picture of the impact on the business if it is disrupted for a short or sustained period?
- Is there an accurate picture of which staff, IT and equipment are vital to business continuity?
- Do you know what alternative resources are required in the event of an incident?
2.Identify your Most Valuable Assets
3.Identify the Threats
4.Adopt a Risk Management Approach
5.Mitigate your Risks
6.Legality, Ethics and Transparency
8.Create a Strong Security Culture - Soft Measures
9.Create a Strong Security Culture - Hard Measures
10.Protect Your Information
11.Secure Sharing of Information
12.Online Social Behaviour
14.Home and Mobile Working
15.Staff Exit Strategy
16.Build it Secure
17.Search and Screening
Free business continuity plan
Download this business continuity plan template and use it to make your business more resilient.
Download a business continuity plan template
Fill in the form to get a free business continuity plan template as an editable PDF. It comes with instructions to help you fill it out.
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Using this business continuity plan template
When filling out this business continuity plan, it helps to have scenarios in mind. Think about what you’d do if some of these things went wrong.
Crises within the business:
- Losing key staff or a big client
- Failure of critical equipment
Crises in the world around you:
- Shipping and supply chain issues
- Natural disasters
- National or global financial shocks
Resources for resilience
As you work through this business continuity plan template, you’ll start seeing ways to make your business stronger. You may want to know more about:
- Business structure: which can affect your levels of legal and financial protection. Learn about business structure .
- Insurance: which can cover things like property, staff, public liability and business continuation. Learn about insurance .
- Accountants and bookkeepers: who can help build financial resilience into your budgets. Find a financial advisor near you.
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Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This template has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business.
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Written and reviewed by:.
As a small business owner you may have been alarmed by the events and uncertainty of the past few years.
Not forgetting Brexit, pandemics, lockdowns, the Great Resignation, an impending recession, and other current stressors – you will need a clear plan in place to keep operations running smoothly in these uncertain times – one that focuses on the continuity, survival and durability of your small business.
You may have heard about Business Continuity Plans (BCPs), but don't know exactly what they are or how to go about creating one. Whilst many small businesses have insurances in place, far less know they need a BCP or some kind of framework to deal with unexpected or unpredictable events.
We’ll guide you through the process here, explaining the key considerations and elements. By the end of this article you’ll know how to write a thorough and workable BCP, using the free template provided to get started .
In this article, we will cover:
What is a business continuity plan, why is a business continuity plan important.
- How to Create A Business Continuity Plan
Next Steps: Testing and Reviewing Your Plan
Our below guide will give you detailed advice on how to write a quality BCP.
But first, you need to know what to include – and that's where a high quality template can help.
We recommend using the free clickup.com BCP template to ensure nothing gets missed. Every step involved in the business continuity plan – coordinating your emergency response, forming your strategy to get back up and running and communicating with your customers – is already mapped out for you, ready to be filled in with your details.
We recommend creating an account with Clickup to use this free template – doing so means you may be able to keep your business protected financially and otherwise in the event of an emergency. You can see the template below, or click to try it for yourself by signing up to Clickup.
Business continuity is the ability of an organisation to continue production and delivery to an acceptable standard following a disruptive incident. A Business Continuity Plan details the steps and strategies to how you intend to do that.
Your Business Continuity Plan can take many different forms – a paper document that you could store away in a filing cabinet, or a digital document that you store on your computer (or multiple if you want to be really safe).
Ultimately it is the emergency strategy you use if you want to get your business on track in terms of regaining customers (and to avoid losing them to competitors) from supply chain issues, for example, to fixing physical damage to products or property, recovering from any losses of particularly significant people, and keeping the business from fully having to close down due to significant negative events.
You would normally use it as soon as you possibly can after said negative events to mitigate as much damage (whether physical or representational) as you can. This would also inspire confidence about you to your team and show the leadership needed to deal with stressful situations when it’s most needed.
The state of the world leaves much to be desired right now. We are seeing such unprecedented upheavals in almost every sector of everyday life – from the cost of living, to post-pandemic effects, to rising electricity prices and other forms of inflation – that Collins Dictionary chose “Permacrisis” as their 2022 word of the year.
“Permacrisis” perfectly encapsulates the ‘survival mode’ most small business owners are in right now . But having a Business Continuity Plan ensures that your company and its assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster – so that the business survives with as little damage as possible (financial or otherwise).
Your business continuity plan should detail such important aspects such as:
- Coordinating an emergency response
- Dealing with damaged infrastructure
- Timescales for getting systems back up and running
- Strategies for reassuring customers
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
We know you already have a lot on your plate right now, and creating a new plan may seem like a lot of work with multiple considerations and factors – but not to worry. A solid plan is worth it, as it can be an essential asset for years to come, and we’re here to walk you through making one.
(We’re also assuming you already have your business plan in place, but if not, we also have a guide that will give you detailed advice on how to write a quality business plan here.)
Step 1: What are your potential risks and impact?
- Consider all the potential risks to your company. There are external risks (for example power cuts, natural disasters, cyber attacks and other things that are out of your control for the most part), and internal risks (for example sudden cash-flow issues, tough sales months or losing key staff).
- What parts of the business could they affect? The issues could affect anything from your premises, people, stock and equipment, operations and processes, to technology.
- What could the impact be? You could for example experience a loss of sales and income, increased expenses, decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty, delayed service delivery, poor product quality, or regulatory fines.
Let’s put it together: If you owned a hair salon and a competitor opened up next door .(potential risk), it would affect the volume of potential customers (part of business affected) and there may be a loss of sales (business impact).
Step 2: What are your critical business functions?
- A critical business function is a process that must be restored in the event of a disruption to protect the business and keep meeting expectations (up to the standards of shareholders, for example). A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system would help with this process, and you can find some of the best CRM for small businesses here .
- A few different business functions that exist are paperwork, employees, and production for example .
- Using paperwork that was at risk of a fire as an example, a way to mitigate this potential risk would be to have multiple backups , in different locations and the responsibility of different people in the business.
Step 3: Who holds the key roles and responsibilities?
It’s important to consider the key roles and responsibilities in your business because that way, the right information can get to the right people in a streamlined way and issues can be resolved by the right people quickly.
These may include:
- Internal staff (sales leaders, accountants, client managers etc)
- External key players (contractors and service providers, suppliers and distributors, IT consultants, utility companies etc)
- It’s important to have a list of key people (with their documented roles), and other important contacts, as well as clear instructions that clarify their responsibilities in an emergency situation.
Let’s put it together: If there was a security breach in a tech company, the customer service department (internal staff) would need to be alerted who could send out a reassuring email to customers. Next, a call would need to be made to an IT consultant to fix the issue (external key players). At the same time, a senior manager for example (key people) could also send out a message to shareholders to clear up and clarify any incorrect information showing on systems.
Step 4: What is your communication plan?
- Who needs to be contacted: in the event of a disruption or emergency? Some examples may include employees, customers, clients, or suppliers.
- How will you communicate with them: Depending on the severity of the situation and also taking into consideration the tone of your company brand and the mediums your customer base use most, you could use social media, press releases, or an email newsletter for example.
- What will the tone be? The tone can be serious, reassuring, optimistic or anything else you feel most accurately serves the situation, and that would be on brand for your company.
- Test your plan. It is extremely important to make sure your plan works BEFORE it's put into action. There would be nothing worse than to feel you have a good plan but when something serious actually happens, it all falls apart because it wasn’t properly tested or viable in actual practice.
- The various components of testing may involve training staff, practice drills where you can receive feedback on areas of improvement, and allowing yourself time to make adjustments where necessary. Project management software would be useful in organising all of this with the many different people involved – we have an article on some of the best free project management software here.
When Should You Review Your Plan?
A Business Continuity Plan should be a living, breathing entity just as your company is. As life’s natural changes occur, and shifts in your business infrastructure inevitably occur over different periods of time, you will need to ensure that your plan is regularly updated so it’s the best it can be.
Key factors that should trigger a review include:
- Changes to staff: New staff will need to be informed about the practices of your plans, and sometimes the plan may need to be adjusted to accommodate new staff, if they have specific needs for example.
- Changes to premises: Your plan should include emergency procedures for every physical premise you have, so if there is a change there make sure your plan reflects that to ensure it’s as optimal as possible.
- Changes to processes: If there are changes to your processes, your plan should reflect these changes so that everyone can stay updated and there is as little confusion as possible in the event of anything unexpected.
How Often Should You Review Your Plan?
- Timeframe: An annual review is good practice to review and update your business continuity plan, because usually in that amount of time a business, the environment of the business and the world would have naturally changed and evolved to some extent.
- Who to update: You should inform anyone within your company that the changes will affect, such as staff and employees, who will need to know in order to adjust their behaviours and processes and move forward safely. (You can use your list of key people for this).
- How / where to store your BCP: As mentioned above in the ‘critical business section’, it’s important that your BCP is stored in a few different locations, and accessible to the people who may need it.
Your business continuity plan should not just be something you create then never intend to action. You never know when an emergency event will come into play that could potentially break your business in some way or another, and you can use the free template provided by Clickup to rectify that.
Hopefully you’ll never need to use your plan, but in the worst case scenario, you can rest assured that you have yourself and your business covered.
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Small Business UK
Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs
Business continuity plan: What it is and why you need it
Bruce Penson, managing director of Pro Drive IT, discusses why business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans are crucial to protecting your organisation.
When it comes to keeping your business in business, it’s important that you have plans in place to deal with both the good and the bad times ahead. Business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans are great way of ensuring that you protect your organisation, however, the two often get mixed up. Many people think that because they have a business continuity plan (BCP) they don’t need a disaster recovery plan (DRP), and vice versa.
They are, of course, very closely linked but with BCPs taking a more proactive approach to avoid and minimise the risk of downtime, and DRPs focusing on recovering from a disaster – they do what they say on the tin! In this post, we’re going to look specifically at the business continuity plan and why you should have one.
Nobody enjoys paperwork, and it’s understandable that many business owners will view a business continuity plan as just another laborious task to complete and that will probably go unused; so here are a few compelling facts which highlight just how important it is to prioritise a BCP.
– On average, a medium-sized data centre will experience over three downtime events each year, with the average power cut lasting over 3.5 hours. Source: Eaton UK
– Some 77 per cent of UK organisations (approximately 4.2 million) experienced connectivity failures in 2016. On average, UK organisations were also found to have suffered 4-5 outages each during 2016 and a wait of six hours every time for service to be restored. Source: ISP Review
– Just over half (54 per cent) of UK companies have been hit by ransomware attacks resulting in variable amounts of downtime (58 per cent of UK companies pay up to get access to data and systems again.) Source: Malwarebytes
– Almost all (97 per cent) of network professionals in a survey by Veriflow agree that ‘human error’ is the most common reason for network outages. Source: Network World
– The average cost of downtime for an enterprise is $5,600 per minute. Source: Gartner
If you’re questioning that last statistic, it’s worth nothing that Gartner’s data was collected from extremely large companies – not SMEs – however, downtime also costs small businesses heavily. Downtime not only results in lost revenue but also in wasted employee time (you’re still paying them even when they can’t work). As well as loss of productivity you may also be paying for services you can’t use such as SaaS solutions that are redundant if your employees are unable to get online. Then there is the cost of getting back to business, such as overtime to catch up on, lost time, missed targets etc.
Depending on your company, losing key business systems can ultimately cost you customers, as your existing customers may choose to go elsewhere. Furthermore, the damage to your reputation and the lack of credibility your business will look to have if there is no disaster recovery plan in place could be extremely costly!
Hopefully the above has convinced you of the importance of having a business continuity plan so that in the event of connectivity issues, a power cut, network outage or cyber attack your organisation can weather the storm and get back to business as quickly as possible.
If you’re under the impression that a business disaster is unlikely to happen to your organisation, you could be mistaken. It could be as simple as one member of staff keeping an eye on an absent colleagues emails whilst they’re on annual leave and accidentally opening a cleverly presented, yet malicious, email. If the email contains ransomware such as ‘Zepto’, it could take seconds for all files on the computer and everything else connected to it – namely the server – to be encrypted.
Before you know it, network systems are unavailable, employees are unable to work, and a disaster recovery plan is essential. In addition to downtime, failing to have a business continuity plan in place can cost an organisation severe reputational damage, and it could even raise compliance issues.
When you’re running a small business, it can be easy to forget that you’re a prime target for cyber criminals, and many people have made the mistake of assuming that hackers are more interested in going after bigger organisations. But, the fact is that when you’re an SME, your cyber defences are easier to breach, as the chances are you won’t have the same budget available to you to spend on cybersecurity as a larger company, and attacking a small business carries a much lower risk than attempting to infiltrate a larger organisation, as the criminals are less likely to be caught.
Furthermore, hackers know that as a small business you’re probably more likely to pay a ransom to have files decrypted quickly, so that business can run as normal and downtime can be minimised. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you have a robust Business Continuity Plan in place, so that these situations can be avoided as far as is possible, and can be dealt with swiftly should they arise. Below, I outline the key aspects you should take into consideration when creating a BCP.
Key considerations for a business continuity plan
The following points will help you understand what needs to be part of your BCP so that you put processes in place to reduce the risk of disruption and recover quickly.
– Critical business functions – what’s going to cost your business most if they are affected by an IT outage or system downtime? These areas need to be prioritised. – Minimise risk – what can be done to avoid these critical business functions being impacted by downtime, i.e. preventative solutions such as networking monitoring, staff education and awareness about cyber threats and risks etc. – Improve recovery times – what can you do to reduce the time it takes to get critical business functions operational again? Perhaps by increasing the frequency of back-ups for critical data. – Failover plans – what can you do to get critical business functions operating during an incident? For example, if your HQ suffers a power cut could staff work from another site?
Need help answering these questions? These free online business continuity tools can help: Click on this link to get started.
Bruce Penson is managing director of Pro Drive IT .
Further reading on business continuity
- How to improve your business continuity strategy in five steps
Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR. More by Ben Lobel
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Guide to business continuity & disaster recovery in digital
- Business continuity/disaster recovery: why should you care?
Four fifths of all businesses who suffer a major incident fail within a year and a half – so if you don’t have a plan to deal with such events, you could be risking your entire business. And, as we’re seeing today, major incidents aren’t just those that damage business premises – almost every business across the globe is now facing a series of Covid-19 restrictions and challenges that has forced them offsite and into some form of business continuity plan.
In this piece I will be looking at the two key elements of any recovery plan – disaster recovery and business continuity – and will explore their differences as well as detail the best ways to build both into your business.
What is business continuity?
Business Continuity (BC) is defined by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, as “the capability of the organization to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident”. In reality it’s you building out a plan that ensures your business is able to deliver the same (or as near to as possible) level of service as it did before the plan was required to be invoked.
What is disaster recovery?
Disaster Recovery (DR) is the way in which an organisation would retrieve key information and services after an unforeseen disaster. Any disaster recovery plan should include a set of policies and procedures to follow in order to get the affected parts of the business working again after a significant disruptive event.
What’s the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery?
Essentially, disaster recovery is a part of business continuity. For example, to enable business continuity you might need access to a very important database. Your DR plan would dictate how often backups of this database are taken, where they’re stored and how to restore this data in the event of a disaster, while your BC plan will communicate more generally how your business will remain operational following a failure or disaster.
Figure 1: disaster recovery is one element of business continuity
Do I need to plan for business continuity, disaster recovery or both?
To safeguard the performance of your business, you’ll need both a business continuity and a disaster recovery plan (though these could be contained within a single document if you prefer). One of the best ways to approach the creation of these plans is to perform a risk analysis on each of the services that you provide to your clients (whether internal or external).
Performing your risk analysis
This is something that can be done in a number of different ways, one of which is to use the formula: Risk Value = Probability of Event x Cost of Event.
For example, you might value your phone system at £500,000 a day, factoring in the cost of sales not taken (per day) if it was to fail, and set the probability of this happening at 1%. Using the above formula, and assuming that a new system could be ordered/installed and working within 24 hours, the risk value is £5,000. This figure can be used to inform the amount you spend to mitigate against the event – so if an additional phone line/system only costs £2,000 a year, the conclusion might be drawn that doing this would be worth the cost when compared to the risk.
While it might seem unnecessary to spend money on something that may never be used, it must be remembered that the cost of not doing anything and having to deal with a disaster later will always be higher. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that even the least likely of events can actually happen, with prepared organisations finding themselves in a much better state than their competitors (being able to move easily to working from home, for example).
Figure 2: risk matrix
You should apply these assessments across all areas of the business, then use your findings to create a clear plan for handling any risks identified.
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The impact of cloud
Just 10 years ago, the only real option for businesses who wanted an immediately-available DR option would be to have a warm or cold ‘site’ – in other words, IT infrastructure that was already set up and ready to go. If ‘warm’ it was literally on and ready to move to at a minute’s notice, and if ‘cold’, it was off but deployable within a day or two. Of course this was massively expensive, and usually only implemented by large companies since you basically needed to double all of your servers (one set in your live office, and another elsewhere).
With the cloud though, that has all changed and no longer do you have to invest massive up-front capital expense to achieve this same outcome. Instead, with the right automation, you can spin up new infrastructure in a new location (or locations) within hours and incur cost only once it’s active. This does increase the level of expertise required but the benefit is huge (and it is something that Box UK has lots of experience in !).
6-point checklist for creating a Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan
Below is a simple 6-point checklist that should enable you to start putting your plan together but do note that risks change, so this exercise should be repeated at regular intervals to be of most use.
1. Analyse your business
- What products/services are offered by your business?
- What do clients expect in terms of deadlines/contracts?
- What hardware/software/tooling only works on-site?
- And what happens if this site has to be closed for a short/long period of time?
2. Assess the risks that could affect your business
- Unable to gain access to building(s)
- Illness (especially flu/contagious disease)
3. Develop your strategy
- What actions are needed to prepare for/respond to the situations identified above?
- Who needs to perform these actions?
- Where/how should these actions be carried out?
- How will you test to ensure that this strategy is effective?
4. Develop your plan
- Ensure that the plan is well-written and distributed to any staff that may be involved in its implementation
- Make department heads aware of their responsibilities
- Make absolutely sure that you have mechanisms in place that allow you to communicate with your staff, whatever the scenario
5. Test your plan
- A plan is useless if it is never tested so ensure this is done regularly, and especially when any key staff members leave the business
- If your plan relies on any key suppliers, confirm that they will be able to cope in the situations you have identified (running a test exercise if necessary, for example). You will also want to ask them for a copy of their own DR plan.
6. Update your plan with any changes
- Every time you test, or indeed any time there’s a significant update to anything you’ve already detailed, remember to update the plans accordingly. This might be particularly pertinent if you’ve added new technology to your setup, or changed any existing business processes.
What happens if I don’t have a BC/DR plan?
If you do not protect your business with a business continuity and disaster recovery plan, then when catastrophe does occur you won’t be prepared – leaving you with the worst of both worlds. Even simple precautions such as having a telephone list of staff/suppliers/clients could save huge amounts of time if you need to advise these people of a change of location due to fire/flood etc.
And, for those businesses that aren’t even sure where to start, why not speak to us ? We not only have our own BC/DR plan but help our clients with their own planning in this area too. This can range from ensuring that we can help you to deliver a resilient service to your customers, to helping you have stretch infrastructure across the globe according to your needs.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the statistics for businesses surviving without a business continuity and disaster recovery plan do not read well:
- A quarter of SMEs don’t have any recovery plan at all
- Among those businesses that do have a disaster recovery plan, more than half (54%) don’t regularly test it and a third has never tested it at all
- Four fifths of all businesses who suffered a major incident failed within a year and a half
There are also high-profile cases of organisations that have suffered due to the lack of an adequate BC/DR plan. For example, back in May 2019 DXC Technology had an entire outage at their Wynyard colocation site that hosted a number of FSTE 50 financial services clients. And, while it looks like they did have a backup core switch it’s unclear when it was last tested, since it didn’t perform as expected. Which serves only to underline my previous point – unless a DR plan is regularly tested, it cannot be relied upon during a disaster.
Hopefully reading this article has provided support for your own planning around business continuity and disaster recovery. You tend to only hear stories about these areas of IT when there has been poor or no planning (and disastrous consequences as a result), but an effective BC/DR strategy doesn’t have to be cumbersome or expensive. It could be something as simple as having a list of contact numbers for staff, or asking staff to take their laptops home each night. Imagine not having this in place if your office (and surrounding area) floods, for example.
Every part of your business needs BC and DR built in, particularly that cloud infrastructure which relies on newer technology than your existing/previous infrastructure. Was full consideration for example given as to how your cloud-based services/data will be restored during their set-up? Remember, not having access to the physical hardware behind this infrastructure brings its own set of challenges (and if you want to find out more about this aspect of BC/DR, get in touch – Box UK is both an official AWS and Microsoft Partner and has extensive experience in Google Cloud , so we’re highly familiar with the full stack of cloud solutions that both offer).
And finally, don’t ever forget that business continuity and disaster recovery aren’t just the responsibility of the IT team/department. If the IT team are unaware of how the finance team are using their accounting software or where this information is kept, for example, they are not going to be able to ensure that it is backed up and able to be easily restored if needed. Everybody, therefore, has a role to play in ensuring that the business can survive any catastrophe – from human error to natural disaster.
About the Author
Head of IT Alistair has been working in the industry for the past decade both in the UK and Europe, supporting internal and external clients in various roles. Operating within a fast-paced environment, Alistair is experienced in numerous technologies such as Amazon Web Services, Windows Servers, Switching, Firewalls, Desktops, and everything in between.
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Business continuity planning
Guidance to help businesses plan to deal with the impact of a major incident or disaster.
This publication was withdrawn on 26 May 2020
This page has been withdrawn because it’s out of date. You can read about Business Continuity Planning at: https://www.thebci.org/
Expecting the unexpected: Business continuity in an uncertain world
PDF , 2.01 MB , 32 pages
The booklet ‘Expect the unexpected’ explains the importance of creating simple but effective plans, helping business to build resilience against any disaster.
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