The only business continuity plan template you’ll ever need


December 2, 2021

Every organization needs a business continuity plan (BCP) in place in case of an emergency. Nobody ever expects a disaster to take out an entire network or business unit, but lack of a contingency plan can be a costly mistake. Gartner estimates an average of $5,600 is lost every minute your business is down, which equates to a range of $140,000–$540,000 per hour. Statista reports 15 percent of businesses lost over $5 million per hour from enterprise server downtime in 2019.

You need a business continuity plan template that accounts for all aspects of your business operations. It needs to successfully accommodate any planned or unplanned disruptions.

What is a business continuity plan template?

An unplanned outage can quickly become a catastrophe if you’re not prepared. Every employee, piece of equipment, and program needs to be accounted for and organized. Your business has a lot of moving parts, and you need recovery priorities, recovery plans, and alternate site locations in place.

Your business continuity plan template contains everything you need to reduce downtime and get around disruptions. It’s important to maintain critical operational processes in the event of any disturbances. These processes will ultimately form your business’ continuity plan checklist. Not all disruptions are disasters, either.

Recovery from natural disasters and cyberattacks is important. In fact, disaster recovery is an example of a business continuity plan. However, even an inter-office move, power outage or new system implementation can disrupt operations. Routine downtime can become a catastrophe if not properly contained.

The two most important resources to protect your people and your technology.

What is an IT service continuity plan?

IT business operations are among the most complicated to plan, so you need an IT service continuity plan in place. This type of business continuity plan specifically targets the IT team to ensure your technology infrastructure remains in place through any outages. According to Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report, sophisticated cyberattacks against business networks are on the rise.

And that’s only half the problem.

An IT service continuity plan keeps records of teams, strategies, and recovery objectives to track every aspect of IT’s continued operations. IT administrators use both onsite and cloud-based storage solutions with data redundancy to ensure every workstation and program works. In the event of an outage, IT maintains all lines of communications and keeps other business units working.

Once IT is accounted for, this team works with executive management to support the rest of your employees.

Necessary sections in a business continuity plan template

Your business continuity plan template is specific to your business, but there are four main components that need to be included.

1. Introduction

Don’t skip the introduction—it’s an important part of the business continuity plan checklist. This is where you explain to the reader how to implement the plan. It includes a table of contents, defines any relevant acronyms, and assigns responsibilities and roles throughout the organization.

The business continuity plan (BCP) introduction is a high-level overview of the objectives, scope, and assumptions you’re working with, along with distribution. Think of it as the cover letter or the instructions for the rest of the document.

2. Business continuity strategy

Your business continuity strategy is where the meat of your BCP lies. This is where you dig into the weeds of each business unit and the functions it performs. In fact, each team and location will have its own individual business continuity plan based on this template.

Business function recovery priorities

This strategy explains how to integrate an offsite strategy for time-critical business functions. IT oversees most of the strategies in this section, which is why the IT service continuity plan is so important in the recovery of any disruption.

Each critical function should be listed throughout each departmental business continuity plan.

Relocation strategy and alternative business site

If office facilities are affected by a disruption or disaster, this section lists alternate sites that have been established and are ready to continue functions. These options are categorized into long-term and short-term solutions.

For a multi-site business, staff members at other sites who perform similar functions can accommodate workloads if necessary.

Recovery plan phases

A successful business continuity plan template comprises of four sequential phases:

  1. Disaster occurrence- This is the beginning phase of the disaster and includes emergency response measures, call trees, and damage assessments.
  2. Plan activation- The second phase occurs when teams are notified and your business continuity plan checklist is put into action. This includes notifying recovery teams, implementing interim processes, and reestablishing data networks.
  3. Alternate site operations- If working at a secondary location, the primary focus is on critical business operations that prevent backlog and reduce processing times.
  4. Transition to the primary site- The final phase to prepare for is the transition of work and/or people from the alternate facility back to the regular office.

Vital records backup

Backups are vital to every recovery effort. You should have plenty of redundant processes and storage procedures in place. Should records need to be physically transferred to a new location, care must be taken to preserve their integrity and security.

Restoration of files, forms, and supplies

Many backups are offsite, and data can be destroyed if not immediately moved from the afflicted building. This includes any mail (received or unopened), files stored in desks and cabinets, hard drives, and any work in progress. Your business continuity plan template should include storage and transport procedures.

Online access to computer systems

Access to technology, digital communications, and network resources are the foundation of your team’s productivity and quality. Each workstation, terminal and business resource (fax machines, printers, copiers, scanners, cash registers, etc.) need troubleshooting in an emergency, which is why IT is so important.

3. Recovery teams

This section lists the function of each onsite team, along with assigning roles and responsibilities for overseeing recovery efforts. Employees are assigned team leader, backup team leader, and team member, each with different duties. This keeps everyone organized while reacting to the situation.

Call trees for every employee and contractor on site should be built. This allows for easy updates and coordination during an event. Emergency response procedures (such as calling 911, if necessary) will be listed in this section with team contacts.

4. Recovery procedures

Here is where you list the exact, step-by-step procedures for each individual task that needs to be completed during the business recovery efforts. A business continuity plan example here would be a guide for assessing building damage and determining whether to evacuate.

Building evacuation procedures, notifications, and other details will be covered in this section. Every location’s recovery procedures will vary based on the nature of the disruption. Short-term and long-term procedures should be included.

5. Appendices

Appendices are used to streamline your business continuity plan checklist by referencing large tables in the back. For example, employee telephone lists, vendor lists, desktop computer configurations, and other vital resources and records can be outlined in an appendix and sourced within the strategies and procedures above.

These appendices make dividing the BCP among business units and points of contact easier.

How does an IT service continuity plan differ?

As pointed out above, the IT service continuity plan and disaster recovery plan are both examples of business continuity plans. It’s important to distinguish them because IT needs to be faster than every other business unit to support their recovery efforts.

IT service continuity plans include normal business processes and team specifics like the above. This team also needs two recovery objectives:

Recovery time objectives

This is how long IT processes can be down before affecting the business.

Recovery point objectives

The max interval of data loss since the last backup that the business can sustain.

With these objectives in place, IT can recover quickly enough to keep the rest of the business running smoothly.

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