How to Create a Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan

A business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan are essential to maintaining continuous business operations during a disaster. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • The difference between business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans
  • The importance of having both
  • How to design these plans

Proper preparation can significantly improve organizational performance and reduce the negative impacts of these disruptions, every organization should invest in business continuity planning.

The Benefits of Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity plans, as we’ll discover below, are designed to maintain business operations during disruptive changes and events. 

Having a plan can:

  • Reduce the losses that occur from disruptions and disasters
  • Minimize other negative impacts on the organization
  • Ensure that an organization remains compliant with industry regulations
  • Improve trust and credibility with customers and business partners
  • Boost confidence among employees 

Of course, to obtain benefits such as these, it is necessary to properly design and implement a continuity plan.

Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery: Key Definitions

Let’s define these two terms, since they are often used interchangeably and can be a cause of confusion for those unfamiliar with the field.

Business continuity plans, as mentioned, are designed to maintain continuous business operations during a disruptive event, a disaster, or another emergency.

These plans are often designed to protect key business functions and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

Disaster recovery plans are specifically aimed at recovering and restoring lost business functions, such as IT. Business continuity plans will often include recovery activities, as well as actions aimed at maintaining continuous business operations.

Though this difference may seem subtle, it is important: one approach is designed to maintain continuous business operations, while the other focuses on recovering lost functions and assets.

Also, it is worth noting that different professionals will sometimes hold slightly different definitions of these terms. Some, for instance, claim that business continuity plans are specifically designed to maintain continuous business operations – while others include disaster recovery activities within business continuity plans.

Regardless of the terminology, plans should cover both of these functions: preserving business operations and restoring lost functions and assets.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan

There are several key steps to follow when developing these plans:

  • Perform risk assessments. Risk management is the business discipline dedicated to assessing and managing risks in a wide variety of circumstances, including economic threats, such as digital disruptions, as well as emergencies and disasters. Risk assessments will evaluate those threats, which will help determine the types of disruptions to address when creating continuity plans.
  • Conduct a business impact analysis. Once those risks have been assessed and determined, a business impact analysis will assess each disruption in terms of its impact on the organization and its finances. This information will then be used to establish important recovery objectives and timelines.
  • Define activities aimed at protecting key business functions. Maintaining continuous operations should be the first priority for any business continuity plan. The nature of these activities will vary depending on the circumstances and the disruption. An organization that wants to maintain employee productivity when they are unable to work from the office – as happened during the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020 – may choose to prepare a telecommuting policy and remote working software.
  • Outline restoration and recovery activities. Recovery and restoration activities, as mentioned, can be included within the business continuity plan or in a separate disaster recovery plan. If the recovery efforts are to be implemented in multiple response plans, then it may be best to have a separate disaster recovery plan, since that plan can be updated independently of the other plans referencing it.

Each plan should also include a number of other sections, such as:

  • A plan activation procedure. Business continuity teams will typically activate a plan by first contacting the business continuity team and other relevant personnel – unless the disruption is an emergency, in which case an emergency response plan will take precedence.
  • The business continuity team structure. The business continuity team will be responsible for implementing the plan and coordinating efforts among other employees. Their contact information and the team’s management structure should be explained in detail.
  • Contact lists for key personnel. Each plan should list contact information for all relevant parties, including the business continuity team, business leaders, key customers and clients, government agencies, and other relevant groups. This will save time during the activation and implementation of the plan.
  • Required forms and documents. Templates, status reports, time logs, expense logs, and any other relevant documents should be included in an appendix.
  • Related plans and actions. Since business continuity and disaster recovery plans may be executed in conjunction with other response plans, it is important to link to those in the main document.

For more detailed information about continuity plans, look at some of the business continuity plan templates on our blog.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.