Building Resilience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a BCDR Plan

Every company, from the smallest shop to a global enterprise, is vulnerable to unpredictable situations and emergencies that can negatively affect key business functions. Solid business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans are imperative in today’s complex business and IT environments.

Restoring normal operations and protecting essential resources is the goal. How best to accomplish this is the real question. Many smaller businesses, and even some larger ones, struggle with this challenge and require assistance in protecting their IT network, sensitive information, and personnel from potentially disastrous events. A BCDR plan template provides a tremendous benefit. Such a resource enables teams to address the processes and specifics of their operations, perform a comprehensive risk assessment, and approve the strategies to be employed across the entire business in disaster cases. This article can be a great resource for your clients to recognize your MSPs value!

This article will explain what a business continuity plan template is, how it can support your business and teams in ensuring operational and employee safety, and how to identify the best options for your specific needs. Axcient encourages MSPs to share this article with their clients to help them understand the criticality of your BCDR services.

What is a business continuity and disaster recovery plan template?

A business continuity and disaster recovery plan template is a document that enables companies to prepare for a cyberattack, system outage, accidental data loss, or a natural disaster. A BCDR plan helps minimize potential negative consequences like unexpected downtime, loss of revenue, reputational damage, and infrastructure interruptions. When developing a business continuity and disaster recovery plan, organizations can utilize business management tools that assist in assessing emergency readiness and identifying the optimum response for restoration during catastrophic circumstances.

A business continuity and disaster recovery plan should be a regularly updated, ready-to-use resource split into sections and categories to streamline a customized BCDR plan for your business. To make the most of it, you must assess your company’s operations, processes, needs, and priorities, following the document’s guidelines.

Why use a BCDR plan template?

A business continuity disaster recovery plan template guides the entire business through analyzing threat defenses, identifying blind spots in operations, and preparing the solutions that need to be applied in case of business disruption.

According to an Axcient disaster recovery survey, only 15% of business owners have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. In comparison, more than half of respondents (57%) said their disaster recovery plan needed more work.

A solid business continuity and disaster recovery plan template gives you the benefit of a clearly defined structure that specialists have already validated. It also guides you through developing your plan, helping you speed up the process while applying best practices techniques. A reliable framework for analyzing and managing risk, a BCDR plan template ensures your optimization efforts focus on what’s essential: understanding your company’s vulnerabilities and how to respond to disasters. Choosing to forgo a BCDR template risks your business with an incomplete plan that falsely creates a sense of security.

When followed correctly, however, a solid BCDR plan template defines a tried-and-true strategy for protecting team members, ensuring services and products are available to customers, maintaining revenue streams, and ultimately securing the business regardless of how data is lost. Moreover, disaster recovery and business continuity planning help businesses comply with regulatory standards to avoid penalties and fees after an incident.

What should be included in a BCDR plan template?

While each company and MSP is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for developing the perfect business continuity and disaster recovery plan, some critical elements are imperative for all businesses.

Risk assessment and business impact analysis (BIA)

Assessing risk means understanding and acknowledging that an organization is vulnerable to the following 4 key losses:

  1. Loss of access to company premises
  2. Loss of critical data
  3. Loss of IT functions
  4. Loss of capabilities

Assess each type of loss based on how likely it is to happen while considering internal and external factors like where the business is located, where servers, workstations, and laptops are located; what business continuity and disaster recovery solutions are in place, what systems you rely on for business operations, backup availability, and how many employees are trained to recover your systems. Businesses must accept that due to today’s cybersecurity climate, it’s not a question of if data loss will happen, but when it does happen, are you ready to keep moving?

To help answer that question, your business continuity and disaster recovery plan should include a BIA that evaluates how each potential threat, emergency, or disaster, impacts the organization and its ability to deliver products and services. Complete a BIA on everything from operational to financial capabilities across your workforce and supply chain.

Potential disaster scenarios

Real-world examples of disaster scenarios and typical business interruption events are necessary for creating a tried and true business continuity and disaster recovery plan. This section of business continuity planning helps organizations walk through their business continuity disaster recovery strategy as if it were the real thing. Table reads and practice drills allow you to run these scenarios and consider the implications and consequences of each decision. These exercises are also crucial for keeping your BCDR plan updated as threats evolve, team members move positions, and new solutions and systems are adjusted.

Recovery strategies and procedures

Recovery is impossible if you don’t backup. That’s why a comprehensive solution is critical to data protection. With proven, automated, and managed security solutions in place, companies can focus on business outcomes while sleeping soundly. Outsourcing data security to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) safeguards you from the potentially business-fatal effects of suffering a cyberattack or permanent data loss.

When choosing your BCDR solution, you need to balance the relationship between mitigation tactics and costs. Balancing the toll a disaster could take on your business against the cost of your business continuity and disaster recovery plan sets the tone for your security posture. Your recovery plan will follow suit based on how backups are stored, where they’re stored, how easy they are to recover, and where your support is coming from.

Roles and responsibilities

Any good plan model should have a section that lists the roles and responsibilities of those involved in implementation. This enables teams to know who to contact in case of an emergency. Be sure that this information and your business continuity and disaster recovery plan are not stored on a vulnerable system. Losing access to this critical document during a disaster wastes valuable time and could jeopardize your ability to recover.

Business continuity and disaster recovery procedures

The plan should differentiate between two main goals: ensuring the company continues to operate after accidental or malicious data loss or a natural disaster and restoring its infrastructure to its pre-disaster state.

The business continuity planning section should cover the first objective, which offers a blueprint for maintaining business processes and procedures to the best extent possible.

The second objective is associated with the disaster recovery planning section, which focuses on how IT infrastructure and essential data, resources, and information systems may be fully operational as soon as possible. The best disaster recovery plan template sections include a complete inventory of hardware and infrastructure components, data loss tolerance, recovery time objective (RTO), and recovery point objective (RPO). Moreover, it also focuses on the cleanup procedures required after an emergency.

Plan maintenance and testing

Your BCDR plan must be updated continuously with maintenance activities and testing. It should include a regular schedule for plan updates, procedures for reviewing and revising the plan, and instructions for conducting regular plan testing and training.

Communication plan

This section outlines the communication procedures with key stakeholders during disruptive events, emergencies, or disasters. It should include procedures for notifying employees, customers, third-party providers, regulatory agencies, legal representatives, and the public.

Additional resources appendix

The additional resources appendix can include any pertinent information to support the BCDR plan. This might include emergency contact lists, inventory lists, technical specifications, and other relevant documents not critical to disaster recovery.

Overall, a comprehensive BCDR plan template should provide a structured and organized approach to business continuity and disaster recovery planning that can be customized to fit a company’s specific needs. By using a template, companies ensure they have a comprehensive plan in place for when disaster strikes and key elements are not being overlooked.

Step-by-step outline for creating a BCDR plan

The following steps represent a general framework for creating a business continuity and disaster recovery plan. However, specific considerations must be made based on business size and complexity, information systems, industry regulations, threat vectors, and your BCDR solution or backup architecture.

The process of creating a BCDR plan typically involves the following steps:

  1. Determine the scope and objectives of the plan: Define the purpose of the business continuity and disaster recovery plan, what kinds of disasters it pertains to, and how it will be put into motion.
  2. Conduct a risk assessment and business impact analysis (BIA): Identify potential risks and hazards, assess their likelihood and impact on the organization, and determine which business processes and key functions are a priority to keep the company running.
  3. Select a BCDR plan template: Choose a template that aligns with the scope and objectives you identify during the risk assessment and BIA to ensure it includes the necessary components for effective response and recovery.
  4. Customize the template: Tailor the template to the specific needs of the business by including relevant information about the organization, its critical processes, IT infrastructure, BCDR solutions, and third-party vendors.
  5. Develop response and recovery strategies: Identify and prioritize response and recovery roadmaps, complete with the resources needed to implement them, how they will be accessed, and who is responsible.
  6. Complete the BCDR plan template: Use the template to develop the business continuity and disaster recovery plan, including emergency response, business continuity, and disaster recovery process and procedures.
  7. Test the plan: Guarantee the reliability and effectiveness of the business continuity and disaster recovery plan regularly to ensure that it works as intended, and refine the plan as needed based on test results and changing circumstances.
  8. Employee training: Ensure all personnel is trained in the procedures outlined in the plan and they understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of varying disaster scenarios.

Following these steps, organizations can use a business continuity and disaster recovery plan template to create a comprehensive and effective plan for responding to and recovering from disruptive events and various threats. The key is to tailor the process to the specific needs and circumstances of the business and test and update the plan regularly so it remains effective over time.

Final thoughts

A BCDR plan template is essential for any organization that wants to prepare and ensure the continuity of critical business operations in the face of disruptive events and natural disasters.

By following a step-by-step process that includes defining the scope and objectives of the plan, conducting risk assessments and a business impact analysis, selecting a template, customizing the plan, and testing and refining the plan, businesses can accelerate recovery and avoid the consequences of a data loss event.

A well-designed BCDR plan helps businesses minimize the impact of disruptive events and ensures they continue operating and providing services to customers. Partnering with a trusted and experienced MSP is a cost-effective, safe, and valuable way for businesses to protect their data. In addition to implementing BCDR solutions that do much of the recovery work for you, MSPs also accelerate recovery, safeguard backups, and provide guidance for proactive data security across the business.

About the Author: Carissa Johnson // Product Marketing Manager, Axcient

Carissa Kohn Johnson AxcientCarissa Kohn-Johnson has a background in healthcare technology and information technology, and is now the Product Marketing Manager for Axcient. She has a lot of MSP Channel experience from planning and attending hundreds of conferences and tradeshows, and found her passion in IT. Carissa is also an elected official in Cary NC, a town chock full of technology-forward people. Connect with her on LinkedIn – perhaps you can contribute to the Axcient blog?

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