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5 tips for testing your BCP

The process of determining and implementing procedures to ensure that a business or organization is able to quickly recover from disasters and major disruptions is called a business continuity plan. The goal of business continuity planning is to reduce the impact of a disaster outage or interruption to an acceptable level and allow the business to continue functioning until normal operations can be fully established. An organization should develop a business continuity plan for many reasons but perhaps the most important being that those who run companies are morally and ethically bound to make decisions and plans that will insure the business or government agency continues to operate and serve customers and service recipients. Many companies and most government organizations are required by law to develop continuity and contingency plans. All upper and executive management staff should be made to feel responsible for the survivability and sustainability of their organization or company.

As with any plan the testing for success should come before the actual disaster.This insures that personnel, facilities and all needed materials are at the ready should the worst occur.There are several different ways the business continuity plan can be tested based on the specific needs of the organization.Here are 5 general tests that can be run to help evaluate a business continuity plan-

1. Crises response team testing-The first line of defense in a crises are the personnel responsible to be "first responders".This is determined after careful analysis of the needs of the company or organization.A line of communication should be established with those would need to respond to a disaster first.This can be as simple as a calling tree or more complex with all first responders being outfitted with pagers, cell phones or radios.
2. A test to indicate whether the organization can move from a primary to a secondary location and then back again.This is often referred to as a "swing test". This allows a company to see what would be needed to make a switch to a secondary location and then back after the recovery process was underway.While it is not always possible or prudent to make a physical move during testing it can be simulated under some circumstances.The main priority of this test is to make a technical move and see if all data, computer files, records etc. can be moved quickly and possibly under duress.
3. Application testing-This allows the company to monitor and evaluate whether the procedures that have been designed in the business continuity plan can be applied for the desired outcome. Direct application must be tried and measured to gauge the possible success of the business continuity plan.While all factors can not be accounted for this can give the company a clear picture as to whether their BCP manual will be effective.
4. Business process testing involves how well the business can continue to function under duress circumstances.All processes must be tested to see whether they can withstand limited circumstances of equipment, personnel and other resources.This will help determine how well the actual business will continue under limited circumstances of disaster.
5. Test evaluation-This is simply a test of the testing.While testing in and of itself helps management responsible for the business continuity plan's success they should evaluate all results.As work processes change over time, the previously documented organizational recovery procedures may no longer be suitable. Some checks include: Are all work processes for critical functions documented? Have the systems used in the execution of critical functions changed?Are the documented work checklists meaningful and accurate for staff? Do the documented work process recovery tasks and supporting disaster recovery infrastructure allow staff to recover within the predetermined recovery time objective? By continuing to monitor whether the business continuity plan is successful or not a business or organization can have at its fingertips the correct plan of success for them no matter what happens.

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