6 Steps for Developing a Business Continuity Plan

Aftab Alam
Executive Vice President, Product Management

Every minute that your business is offline is expensive. While every business differs, you'll find some guidelines for projecting your downtime costs in this post. But there are other costs beyond dollars. Your reputation, for example, is hard to repair if you're unavailable when your customers need you and your company name is front-page news. No company wants to be responsible for delivering a lesson in security to the rest of its industry, as noted in the headline of a Forbes article about the Colonial Pipeline hack.

The best way to avoid these costs is through business continuity planning, including data backup and disaster recovery plans. That way, if any disaster strikes—from a ransomware attack to a hurricane—you know what to do and have the tools to keep your business running. With that in mind, let's look at the specific areas you need to address as you develop your plan—and how you can ensure it will be effective if and when it is required.

1.    Assess Your Risks

Regardless of your company's size or structure, you must understand where your risks lie to reduce or eliminate them. You'll want to list every potential threat to your business operations so you can consider how to mitigate those risks most effectively. Risk assessment should be a team effort, addressing every aspect of your operations and every kind of threat, including:

  • Natural disasters
  • Cyberattacks
  • Ransomware
  • Human error
  • Unplanned downtime
  • Power outages
  • Data corruption
  • System failures
  • Hardware failures

2.    Perform a Business Impact Analysis

As noted on Ready.gov, the business continuity planning process should include a business impact analysis that addresses lost revenues, increased expenses, regulatory impacts, and other factors. You'll also find a helpful business impact analysis worksheet on the Ready.gov site. As part of this analysis, you need to establish or update your recovery time objective (RTO)—the amount of downtime your business can tolerate—and your recovery point objective (RPO)—the amount of data your business can afford to lose before the impacts are just too significant.

3.    Identify Critical Systems

With a clear understanding of your risks and the potential impacts on your business, the next step is identifying mission-critical systems and functions. This list will help you prioritize these systems for protection and recovery. As you build out your business continuity plan, mapping your network, hardware, and software topology and dependencies can be invaluable for locating and troubleshooting issues, thus accelerating recovery.

4.    Back Up Your Data

While you are likely already backing up your data in some form, your risk assessment and business impact analysis should give you a solid foundation for choosing the most effective backup strategy and solution for your needs. At a minimum, your data backup solutions should adhere to Arcserve's recommended 3-2-1-1 backup rule: Keep three copies of your data in two media types, with at least one copy offsite in the cloud or secure storage and one copy in immutable storage. 

5.    Plan for Recovery

Every IT business continuity plan should include a disaster recovery (DR) plan. Your plan should account for procuring the technologies you need to meet your RPOs and RTOs. It should also designate your recovery strategy—from file-based recovery to virtual machine (VM) and cloud-based recovery.

6.    Test Your Plan (Regularly)

If you need to implement your business continuity and disaster recovery plans, there's no time to waste. It is essential to test your IT business continuity plan to perform as expected if disaster strikes. Arcserve Cloud Services allows you to test (or start) a site-wide failover process by pressing a single button.


There's a lot to consider when developing your business continuity plan. And when it comes to business continuity technologies like backup and disaster recovery, it's worth talking to an expert. Choose an Arcserve technology partner and get the product information you need to make an informed decision.

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