What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Business Continuity Plan

Once your company grows to a certain size, your customers may seek proof of how secure your data infrastructure is. Cyber attacks and data security incidents are at an all-time high in the current corporate landscape, especially in the SaaS industry, so it is natural for your customers not to take your credibility at face value.

This is where a SOC 2 audit report comes in. Getting SOC 2 certified guarantees your business the enduring trust of prospective customers; however, achieving SOC 2 compliance attestation is difficult. This is primarily because a SOC 2 audit involves a lot of documentation such as management declarations, system descriptions, a control matrix, vendor risk management policies, a code of conduct policy, incident response policies, and disaster recovery strategies, amongst others, and continuous compliance with three months to 12 months of the observation period. 

In addition to major security practices and policies, one important plan that customers look for is a business continuity plan. It helps customers better understand the incident response and disaster management strategies and clearly states the company’s plans to handle a significant disruption to your data systems and processes.  

In this blog, we will provide you with an overview of a business continuity plan—what it is, why it is important, who should be responsible for business continuity planning in your organization, how it differs from disaster recovery and incidence response plans, and why you should continuously test one for your organization.   

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan is a written document outlining a series of steps an organization should take to maintain operations during and after a substantial interruption. 

This disruptive event can mean various dangers, such as natural disasters, technological malfunctions, and cyberattacks.

A business continuity plan is one component of the overall business continuity management (BCM) process. The program includes risk assessment, reaction planning, recovery, and long-term upkeep of the business’s developed tried-and-true policies and processes.

Why is Business Continuity Planning Important?

When an auditor is examining your systems and security controls, they will most likely assess your business continuity plan first—to ascertain your level of compliance with a standard framework such as SOC 2 Trust Services Criteria (TSC). If your SOC 2 audit includes Availability as a TSC, this plan is crucial. 

The rules of the SOC 2 Availability criterion primarily emphasize a priority on reducing downtime. Therefore, risk evaluation is crucial.

A SOC 2 auditor would probably examine whether your business has identified and considered strategies to minimize environmental dangers that could affect system availability, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Threats that are “man-made,” such as theft and cyberattacks, should be dealt with using the same procedure.

A compliance auditor may also examine your business continuity plan’s applicability to unforeseen situations that can affect the availability and capacity of your system, like a pandemic. If your business continuity plan has been tested recently, an auditor will check that too.

Following this, let’s learn who should create a business continuity plan for your company.

Who is Responsible for Business Continuity Planning?

Businesses need to start planning for business continuity needs on priority. This means that a director or senior manager at the organization must endorse it and be prepared to participate. They should be designated as the executive sponsor, while another person should be chosen as the business continuity planning coordinator. 

To help the coordinator, appointing a planning team that includes representatives from all the organization’s key operational areas can also be necessary.

This coordinator and their team should also be duly appointed and given authority to carry out various other tasks, such as identifying your company’s weaknesses and developing mitigation plans, testing those plans to ensure they work in multiple crises, and updating them as new threats materialize.

What is the Difference Between Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and Incident Response Plans? 

Besides a business continuity plan, you also need disaster recovery and incident response plans. Let’s understand the differences between them.

Business Continuity Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan (DRP) provides processes for recovering information systems operations after a significant system disruption, like a major software failure, by relocating them to an alternate location. The key distinction between a business continuity plan (BCP) and a disaster recovery plan is that a BCP provides procedures for maintaining business operations while recovering from a significant disruption. 

Organizations frequently merge business continuity and disaster recovery strategies into one document. Some people opt to design them as different papers, though.

Business Continuity Plan vs. Incident Response Plan

The main distinction between an incident response plan (IRP) and a business continuity plan is that an IRP outlines procedures for mitigating and repairing a system after a security incident, such as a virus or some other trojan horse. On the other hand, a business continuity plan outlines procedures for maintaining business operations while recovering from a significant disruption.

When security events do occur, a recovery procedure should be described in an IRP plan.

A compliance auditor will also examine this important document to assess your compliance level.  

Why is it Important to Test Your Business Continuity Planning for SOC 2 Compliance?

The key to understanding the significance of testing your business continuity plan is to ask yourself how you would know if it works in the event of a disaster if you have yet to implement your plan in advance successfully. Since there is no way to predict how severe a crisis would be, organizations aiming to achieve SOC 2 compliance should prioritize the continuous practice of various situations. How would your business continuity plan function, for instance, if a tornado hits your company and a key employee is unable to report to work due to the disaster? Is there another person who could assume that person’s duties to ensure your services continue to be offered as promised?

An auditor will use two key focus points to help them evaluate compliance with availability requirements. They will first want to confirm that your company regularly tests its business continuity strategy. To do that, they will ensure that the following functions are performed as part of your business continuity plan:

  • create multiple testing scenarios based on the likelihood and severity of threats;
  • take into account system components from around your organization that could reduce your system’s availability;
  • implement hypothetical situations when critical individuals may not be available; and,
  • adapt your business continuity strategy in light of test results.

Auditors will want to confirm that your company routinely tests the accuracy and completeness of backup data.

SOC 2 Compliance Readiness with Akitra!

Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that their organizations are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk, and compliance certification fills that need.

Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our compliance automation platform and service help our customers prepare readiness for the SOC 2 compliance standard, along with other security frameworks like SOC 1, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently. 

The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.

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