Business continuity testing is a process for seeing how well a business will perform under stress, to determine if the continuity plan established is effective or needs to be adjusted. This gives the business a chance to identify problems and flaws with its continuity plan in advance so they can be addressed, preparing the business for a real emergency. Examples of emergencies can include losses of power and other municipal services, civil emergencies, and disasters. Having a plan in place for handling these will allow a business to retain functionality during the crisis and get back to work as quickly as possible after the crisis is resolved.
In business continuity testing, a hypothetical situation is set up and explored at the business. Rather than just running simulations where people meet around a table and imagine a situation and how they respond, the real business is put through its paces. This tests the technology the business plans to rely on, preparedness on the part of employees, and the systems the business has in place to maintain continuity. For major companies, interruptions of business can be costly and may expose it to risks, so perfecting a continuity plan is important.
During the business continuity testing, people will act as though there is a real emergency. The response will be monitored by the people who establish and update the continuity plan, looking for issues like employees not knowing what to do, backup electronics failing, and so forth. At the end of the testing, a report will be written up to discuss how effective the response was and identify weak points. Recommendations will be made for adjusting the business continuity plan to make sure the business will be better prepared in a real emergency.
People may be warned ahead of time about business continuity testing, or the testing may take place without prior warning. Warning people can give the business time to set up some failsafes to prevent an interruption of regular business, but it can make the experience less realistic and may cloud the results of the business continuity testing. People aware of the simulation may also not perform like they would in a true emergency situation.
Businesses often hire consultants and experts to help them create continuity plans. While the staff can develop their own, an outside set of eyes can be helpful with identifying key functions of the business and discussing how to accomplish them in a situation where business activities may be limited. Many businesses also welcome input and recommendations from personnel at all levels on how to keep the business as operational as possible in an emergency.