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Why You Need to Test Your Continuity Plan

Your business continuity plan is done, and you’re ready to start training your teams. Where do you start? The most important element of a well-prepared plan is a well-prepared team who can execute efficiently and at a moment’s notice.

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Running drills to test out your plan is absolutely necessary and vital to the successful execution of your hard work at meticulous planning. Drills help you to identify issues, weaknesses and afford you the opportunity to address those before you actually need to put your plan in action. Don’t forget this crucial step, as it’s the key to keep your business up and running in the event of a catastrophe.

(See infographic below ↓)

Something to note – creating a business continuity plan (BCP) and performing disaster recovery (DR) testing are related but are different. A BCP is what your company needs to do to keep your products and services available to your customers. DR testing is specific to your company’s systems and technology, and how to repair and regain them should they go down. DR testing should follow BCP testing.

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Shutterstock; Photo by Oleksiy Mark

Before You Start Testing

Check on governmental and corporate compliance regulations. It would be a fatal mistake to get so far down the line and then realize you missed something and have to start over. The next thing to identify is benchmarks for your testing. Gather your core team together and discuss what results you expect and also what the minimum acceptance level is. Try to shoot for a higher mark than the minimum to give yourself some room for unexpected issues.

Clear and concise communications with your team, partners and vendors is paramount to the success of your disaster plan. Determine the channels to alert stakeholders to disaster, and include everyone who might possibly be affected, including clients, customers, vendors and partners. Address how to mitigate client concerns and who is responsible, assess damage and report updates, and timing of those communications. Will you need a spokesperson for media inquiries? Do you have resources for social media updates or client outreach? Finally, when the event is over, discuss how will you wrap up loose ends and report those out.

African American businesswoman explaining project strategy

Shutterstock; Photo by fizkes

So, What Types of Disasters Should You Plan For?

Given recent events, we know anything can happen at any time, more than ever. From wildfires to global pandemics to freak storms, there are any number of possibilities when it comes to natural catastrophes. Also consider information disasters – data loss, breaches and trying to recover intelligence. Additionally, network or power outages may bring your business to a complete halt.

Now that you have identified potential scenarios, in what ways do you test out your plan and what types of testing should you do? Don’t make the mistake of only doing one. You want to try a few different tests to understand all of the potential issues. Try a walkthrough with your entire disaster recovery team. Take it step-by-step so everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and has the opportunity to ask questions. With a surprise drill, you announce to your teams to shut down systems and communicate to your constituents that a drill is in play. A simulation drill walks through specific situations, say a power outage caused by a natural disaster, and is helpful for hands-on training purposes. To determine whether your teams respond appropriately, and critical systems work as planned, try a functional drill as a pre-test of your disaster recovery plan. A full-scale test mimics a real emergency most closely. Systems are powered down, teams are mobilized, communication responses are activated. This gives you the opportunity to see whether actions items are executed within the appropriate timeframe and are completed effectively.

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After Running Exhaustive Tests

What needs to be changed or modified? Have you identified any gaps in your processes? Document the results and discuss with your team how to address vulnerabilities.

Remember testing is something your teams should do regularly. Things change often, and you want your plan to reflect those changes. Schedule quarterly or annual reviews and run drills often to keep everyone informed and empowered.

Now your team is prepared. Everything is documented and ready to go. Congratulations! You have taken the most important step in protecting your business and your brand relationships. They now know you have them covered should anything go awry, thus adding more value to both your relationship and your brand integrity. Whenever disaster strikes, you’ll know exactly what to do to protect your business and that of your clients and customers.

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