What is Business Continuity? (Overview, Definition, and Examples)

  • By: Tim Vire
  • January 11, 2023
Benefits of Business Continuity Planning
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Benefits of Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity planning helps companies, nonprofits, and others outline steps to take during and after unexpected disruptions in operations.

Business continuity plans exist to ensure a business can survive and thrive in the face of any unforeseen disaster or disruption. Creating one is an essential part of any organization’s crisis management strategy, because even the most prepared and vigilant of companies are vulnerable to sudden threats.

Creating a solid business continuity plan requires effort, teamwork, and collaboration among leaders and board members. Read on to learn the foundational importance of having a business continuity plan, what should be included in one, as well as an overview of vital standards and software to help ensure successful implementation.

What is Business Continuity?

Business continuity refers to a business or nonprofit’s critical operations and services continuing to function despite disruption or disaster. It requires developing a comprehensive plan for maintaining normal operations during unexpected events, such as natural disasters, cyber attacks, power outages, pandemics, and more. Business continuity plans are designed to help minimize losses in terms of revenue and reputation by enabling businesses to quickly resume day-to-day business activities following an unforeseen event.

The importance of having a business continuity plan cannot be overstated in today’s ever-changing business environment. Having one helps organizations mitigate risk and reduce downtime while increasing resilience.

The benefits include faster response times with minimized damage, improved communication between departments, better support for crisis management efforts, increased customer satisfaction due to quicker resolution time, and reduced costs associated with lost productivity and data recovery.

Ultimately, creating a comprehensive business continuity plan proves essential for any organization wanting to protect its assets from potential risks.

What to Include in a Business Continuity Plan

A well-developed business continuity plan acts as a roadmap for restoring normal operations after a disruptive event has occurred. Below are key elements to include in your business continuity plan. 

1. Key Business Impact Areas

Business continuity plans should identify and prioritize the key business impact areas that need to be addressed in order for an organization to remain operational during a disruption or disaster. These include infrastructure, resources, data and information, processes, people, and technology. Establishing these areas of focus will allow organizations to create effective strategies for mitigating risks based on their individual needs. 

By identifying potential threats and implementing appropriate countermeasures ahead of time, businesses can minimize the potential damage caused by unanticipated events.

2. Acceptable Downtime

Acceptable downtime is the maximum amount of time an organization can tolerate its critical systems or services to be unavailable. It is an important consideration when creating business continuity plans, as it provides a benchmark by which organizations can measure their preparedness and response efforts in the event of a disruption or disaster.

When determining acceptable downtime, consider factors such as potential revenue loss due to reduced availability, impact on customers and suppliers, operational costs associated with restoring services, public perception of an outage, legal liabilities related to data privacy laws, and any other risks posed by extended periods of unavailability. The general formula to calculate acceptable downtime is recovery time objective (RTO) plus work recovery time (WRT).

RTOs are targets set by organizations for how quickly they need to return their services back to normal following a disruption or disaster. These objectives typically vary depending on the type of system impacted. However, it is important that they are realistic and achievable within the available resources so you have confidence in your ability to recover from any unexpected incident without experiencing significant losses or delays in service delivery.

3. Plan to Maintain Operations

A plan to maintain operations is an essential component of any business continuity strategy. This plan should outline the steps taken by an organization to ensure key processes and systems remain operational during a disruption or disaster. It should include specific procedures for restoring critical services, such as customer service departments, IT infrastructure, and supply chain management, as well as detailed guidelines on how staff will continue working remotely if necessary. Additionally, this plan should identify alternative resources and personnel that can be used in the event of unanticipated disruptions.

Business Continuity Standards

Business continuity standards are essential for organizations seeking to ensure the resilience of their operations in times of disruption or disaster. The most commonly adopted standards include ISO 22301, ISO 31000, and NFPA 72.

ISO 22301

ISO 22301 is an international standard that provides a framework for developing effective business continuity management systems. This standard outlines the principles, processes, and activities required to plan, establish, implement, operate, and maintain BCMSs so organizations can

  • Identify threats and vulnerabilities
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Develop plans
  • Conduct risk assessments
  • Provide training on emergency response procedures
  • Monitor progress in implementing BCMSs
  • Review effectiveness of operational plans regularly
  • Assess impact following disruptions or disasters

ISO 31000

ISO 31000 is an international standard that provides a risk management framework for organizations of all sizes. This standard outlines processes, structures, and practices needed to identify, assess, and manage risks in order to achieve organizational objectives while also taking into account uncertainty associated with them.

ISO 31000 emphasizes the importance of implementing systems designed to detect potential threats before they occur, as well as establishing contingency plans in case incidents do happen. It promotes proactive approaches that allow organizations to anticipate future trends and changes in their environment, so they can be better prepared for any eventuality.


NFPA 72 is an industry standard developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which provides guidelines on fire alarm systems and other life safety measures in order to protect occupants of buildings. This document outlines requirements for the design and installation of different types of fire detection, notification, control, and suppression systems, as well as evacuation plans.

It also encourages regular testing and maintenance schedules to ensure these devices function properly at all times. NFPA 72 promotes the use of multi-sensory alarms that can be heard, seen, and/or felt to provide maximum warning in case an emergency arises. It also recommends installing smoke detectors throughout the building so potential hazards can be detected early. Additionally, this document contains provisions regarding training personnel responsible for monitoring the system regularly, as well as providing clear instructions on how everyone should respond when alarms sound.

Business Continuity Starts With Board Alignment

A business continuity plan requires the board of directors to collaborate effectively in its creation and review it regularly so everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in case of unexpected disruption or disaster. OnBoard’s intelligent and intuitive board portal platform uniquely helps boards engage with the long-term strategic direction of their organizations by maximizing the value of time the board spends together and making discussions more meaningful and actions more deliberate.

In addition, its limitless system of record allows boards to securely store documents related to continuity planning that can be accessed by the entire organization no matter their location. With a unified platform, communication is simplified and decisions are tied to real, meaningful data. 

Want to find a board management vendor that will help your board be more strategic and forward-thinking? Check out OnBoard’s Board Management Software Buyers’ Guide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What is the Main Goal of Business Continuity?

    The main goal of business continuity is to ensure that an organization can continue operating through any disruptions or unexpected events, such as natural disasters, power outages, cyber attacks, and pandemics.

  • What are Examples of Business Continuity?

    Business continuity is an essential aspect of any organization's operational strategy, and there are a variety of approaches that can be implemented. One example is the implementation of redundancy solutions, such as redundant servers or cloud-based data storage systems, which allow for continued operations even if one system fails. Another example is the establishment of remote working protocols in order to ensure employees can work from home during times of disruption or crisis.

Ready to upgrade your board’s effectiveness with OnBoard the board intelligence platform? Schedule a demo or request a free trial

About The Author

Tim Vire
Tim Vire
Tim Vire is a senior manager of customer success at OnBoard. "My role places me in working relationship with every other team in the company," Tim says. "I enjoy that broad scope of the business." A Faith Bible College graduate, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and grandson, collecting vinyl records, and listening to music. He lives in Pendleton, Indiana.

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