Why is a business continuity plan important in cybersecurity?

A business continuity plan is critical for organizations to maintain operations during and after a cybersecurity incident. Having a plan in place allows a business to continue serving customers, protecting data, and minimizing financial losses. With the constant threat of cyber attacks, ransomware, data breaches, and more, business continuity planning is an essential part of any cybersecurity program.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a documented plan for how an organization will maintain or resume critical operations during and after a disruption. The plan outlines strategies to keep the business running amid challenges like cyber attacks, technology failures, or natural disasters.

An effective BCP will:

  • Identify time-sensitive operations and services
  • Specify policies and procedures to maintain critical functions
  • Define roles and responsibilities for response teams
  • Outline communication plans for employees, customers, and stakeholders
  • Document processes for assessing damage and restoring operations

Organizations tailor business continuity plans to their unique operations, resources, vulnerabilities, and priorities. Plans may cover facets like emergency communications, employee training, data backup and recovery, alternative worksites, supply chain management, and compliance with regulations.

How does business continuity relate to cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity and business continuity planning go hand-in-hand. Cyber attacks are a major threat to operations, so business continuity programs must address cyber incidents.

Some examples of how cybersecurity ties into business continuity include:

  • Incident response plans – BCPs outline procedures to detect, analyze, contain, and recover from cybersecurity events.
  • Data backup and recovery – To resume operations after an attack, compromised data must be restored from backups.
  • Alternative work locations – If the primary workplace is inaccessible due to an attack, employees may need to work remotely.
  • Technology redundancy – Having redundant systems and spare hardware can aid recovery after cyber incidents.
  • Cyber insurance – Policies can cover business interruption losses and reconstruction costs stemming from cyber events.

Integrating cybersecurity and business continuity results in stronger preparation. It enables a coordinated response to any disruption of IT systems or data from malware, hacking, human error, or other causes.

Why have a business continuity plan for cyber incidents?

Here are key reasons why business continuity planning is an imperative part of cybersecurity:

1. Maintain critical operations during an attack

When under a cyber attack like ransomware, time is of the essence. Still, core business processes may need to continue operating. A business continuity plan spells out how to keep vital services available. Examples include:

  • Switching to backup systems to process orders and transactions
  • Enabling remote work capabilities for employees
  • Using alternative communications like phone and radio to reach staff and customers
  • Leveraging outside partnerships to sustain supply chain and distribution

Without continuity planning, even brief disruptions of key systems can damage productivity, sales, brand reputation, and customer relationships.

2. Comply with regulations

Many industries face legal and regulatory requirements around business continuity and disaster recovery (DR). Examples include:

  • Healthcare – HIPAA Security Rule requires contingency planning for protected health information.
  • Finance – FDIC rules require banks to have business continuity and DR plans.
  • Public companies – Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requires assessing business continuity risks and controls.

Non-compliance with standards can result in regulatory penalties and reputation damage. An up-to-date business continuity plan helps satisfy legal obligations for cybersecurity preparedness.

3. Minimize disruption of operations

Statistics show that companies without business continuity plans suffer much longer disruptions. One study found:

  • Companies with plans recovered critical operations in an average of 1-2 days.
  • Those without plans took 3-5 days or more to resume critical operations.[1]

Lengthy outages can be catastrophic for revenue and customer retention. Thoughtful continuity planning minimizes potential harm to the business.

4. Improve resilience to cyber incidents

An incident response plan is one of the core components of business continuity planning. It establishes processes to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity events. These plans build resilience by outlining steps such as:

  • Monitoring systems for signs of compromise like suspicious network activity
  • Evaluating the impact and scope of an attack
  • Isolating and removing malware from the environment
  • Restoring data from clean backups
  • Retraining employees on policies after an incident

Quick and organized response and recovery helps control damages and regroup after an attack.

5. Fulfill duty of care to customers

Customers expect companies to keep their data secure and maintain continuity of services. Business continuity planning demonstrates commitment to customers by:

  • Reducing risk of disruptions that would impact client services
  • Enabling compliance with contracts and service levels
  • Preventing breaches of sensitive customer data

Fulfilling obligations to clients also protects the company’s brand reputation in the marketplace.

Elements of an effective business continuity cybersecurity plan

Organizations should align business continuity planning with their cybersecurity strategy, policies, and controls. Some key elements of an effective continuity plan for cyber incidents include:

Cyber incident response plan

Documented policies, roles, and procedures for detecting, analyzing, containing, eradicating, and recovering from cybersecurity events.

Critical system redundancy

Alternate or backup servers, networks, data centers, cloud services, and other infrastructure to maintain operations if primary systems are compromised.

Data backup and recovery

Regular backups of essential data, systems, and configurations with secure storage and testing.

Emergency communications

Methods to reach employees, customers, partners, authorities, media, and other stakeholders during and after an incident.

Incident management teams

Cross-functional teams to enact incident response, business continuity, crisis communications, and other plans.

Cybersecurity insurance

Policies covering costs like investigation, restoration, crisis management, liability claims, and lost income from cyber attacks.

Alternative worksites

Arrangements for staff to work remotely or at other locations if facilities are damaged or inaccessible.

Critical supply/service provider management

Contingency plans for relying on backup vendors or providers if key partners are impacted by an incident.

Employee training

Education for staff on business continuity protocols, cybersecurity incident response, and their roles.

Plan testing and exercises

Scheduled simulations to validate the effectiveness of business continuity plans for cyber incidents.

Plan maintenance

Process for regularly reviewing and updating plans to reflect changes in business operations, technology, regulations, and evolving threats.

Challenges of business continuity for cybersecurity

Developing and sustaining business continuity plans for cybersecurity comes with some inherent challenges:

Complexity of cyber risks

The diversity and sophistication of cyber threats makes predicting and preparing for every incident difficult. Risk assessments help focus continuity planning on most likely and impactful scenarios.

Ever-changing technology

Business systems and cyber defenses evolve rapidly. Continuity plans must be updated frequently to remain in sync with the IT environment and risks.

Dependence on technology

Heavy reliance on digital systems and data creates business continuity challenges. More backup systems and resilience measures may be needed.

Cost of implementation

There are costs associated with plan development and testing, redundant infrastructure, cyber insurance, and other measures. Organizations must balance continuity investments with budgets.

Remote workforce

Work-from-home employees can create cyber risks. Extra precautions are needed to implement continuity plans across a distributed workforce.

Compliance requirements

Various regulations mandate different aspects of continuity and incident response. Keeping up with regulatory changes adds complexity.

Interconnected systems

With third parties handling much sensitive data, continuity plans must consider implications across connected systems and providers.

Steps to implement a business continuity cybersecurity plan

Here is an overview of key steps to implement a business continuity plan tailored to cyber incidents:

1. Conduct a business impact analysis

Assess which business functions, resources, and stakeholders would be impacted by various cyber incident scenarios. Estimate damages to guide continuity investments.

2. Take inventory of assets and systems

Catalog cyber assets like hardware, data, software, endpoints, networks, critical infrastructure, and third-party connections.

3. Identify critical operations and services

Determine time-sensitive functions and systems that must resume quickly after a cyber event. Prioritize continuity efforts accordingly.

4. Create a written plan

Document policies, procedures, roles, vendors, and requirements to maintain operations during and after a cyber incident. Establish clear leadership and communications protocols.

5. Implement resilience measures

Put redundancy and cybersecurity controls in place to facilitate continuity. Examples include redundant infrastructure, remote work capabilities, cyber insurance, and employee training.

6. Establish monitoring and testing

Plan assessments like simulations and audits to verify the business continuity program for cybersecurity meets organizational needs and compliance standards.

7. Review and update regularly

Continually evaluate risks, test plans, and enhance continuity measures based on new threats, technologies, and business operations.


Business continuity and cyber resilience are intrinsically linked. Cyber attacks and data incidents can instantly devastate operations. An effective, tested continuity plan enables organizations to maintain critical functions and recover more swiftly. It demonstrates duty of care to customers and compliance with regulations. Given rising cyber risks, a thoughtfully crafted business continuity plan is a fundamental component of cybersecurity.

[1] Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark Survey. (2019). Disaster Recovery Journal. https://www.drj.com/drj-report/2019-disaster-recovery-preparedness-benchmark-survey.html