Business continuity and disaster recovery testing templates: A free download and guide

Business continuity/disaster recovery testing can be a major challenge. Download our free business continuity test template and guide to learn how to conduct a successful test.

Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans are useless until you test them. Fortunately, many types of tests are possible, ranging from simple to very complex. The key to business continuity testing success is to incorporate testing as part of the overall business continuity/disaster recovery management process.

But testing can be a major challenge to many organizations. They require management support, time for preparation and execution, funding, careful planning and a structured process from pre-test through test and post-test evaluation. has created a business continuity testing template and guide to show you how to build and execute your test. In this guide, you will learn how to conduct a business continuity test, who should be included and how to develop a successful BC/DR testing strategy.

FREE DOWNLOAD: SearchDisasterRecovery's business continuity test template

Business continuity and disaster recovery testing template: Table of contents

>>An introduction to business continuity testing
>>Using our business continuity test template
>>Business continuity testing terms
>>Effective business continuity/disaster recovery testing strategies


Three fundamental test types are used in business continuity testing: the plan review, tabletop test, and simulation test. Let's examine each briefly:

  • In a plan review, the business continuity/disaster recovery plan owner and business continuity/disaster recovery team discuss the BC/DR plan. They examine the plan document in detail, looking for missing plan elements and inconsistencies.
  • In a tabletop test, participants gather in a room to walk through plan activities step-by-step. Tabletop exercises can effectively demonstrate whether team members know their duties in an emergency. Documentation errors, missing information and inconsistencies across business continuity management (BCM) plans can be identified.
  • To determine if BCM procedures and resources work in a more realistic situation, a simulation test is desirable. It uses established business continuity resources, such as recovery sites, backup systems, and other specialized services. Teams may be sent to alternate sites to restart technology as well as business functions. Simulations may also uncover staff issues regarding the nature of their tasks. In effect, a simulation is a full-scale test without actually failing over. The use of scenarios is recommended in simulations.

USING OUR BUSINESS CONTINUITY TEST TEMPLATE's business continuity test plan template provides a starting point for preparing and executing a business continuity test. It provides a testing framework without addressing a specific plan format. All phases of a test -- pre-test panning, test execution, post-test review and final report preparation -- are supported in this template. The actual test activity, including test structure, scenarios, scripts and injects, and adjunct activities (e.g., audio and video programs) is at your discretion.

The key in using our template is to follow all of the steps outlined: pre-test planning, conducting the test, identifying and training the test participants, conducting post-test debriefs and preparing final summary reports.


The following is a explanation of key business continuity testing terms used in the template:




Design team

The design team develops the test from start to finish. Members should have strong knowledge of the overall business. They should also have detailed knowledge in their area or department. The team usually has three to seven members, more if needed. The design team is:

  • Creative
  • Functional under pressure
  • Able to stay on schedule
  • Detail-oriented
  • Willing to challenge
  • Good at keeping secrets
  • Not participating in the test

Orientation test

  • Introduces participants to the plans and procedures
  • Introduce new plans or revise old plans
  • Requires no previous experience
  • Helps orient new staff or leadership
  • Planning cycle: one month
  • Test time: 60 to 90 minutes


  • Test of individual emergency response functions
  • Involves actual field response
  • Practice or test under realistic conditions
  • Involve all levels of responders
  • Planning cycle: one month
  • Test time: 10 to 60 minutes
  • Examples:
    • Fire drill
    • Radio test
    • Tornado test
    • Earthquake test

Tabletop test

  • The basic version seeks to solve problems in a group setting via brainstorming
  • Advanced tabletop tests will introduce messages and test assistants who can answer questions
  • A more "reality-based" experience
  • Planning cycle: two to three months
  • Test time: 90 to 120 minutes
  • Debriefing time: 30 minutes

Functional test

  • Assesses the allocation of resources and manpower
  • Evaluates communication across the different groups
  • Assesses the adequacy of current procedures and policies
  • Participants perform actual activities
  • Involves more participants: simulators, evaluators, larger design team
  • Introduces more advanced messages and other media
  • Test time: 90 minutes to four hours
  • Planning cycle: three to six months

Full-scale test

  • Evaluates the operational capability of systems in an interactive manner over a substantial period of time
  • Presents complex and detailed events in real-time
  • Mobilizes personnel, resources, emergency response teams and equipment
  • Can be expensive; may be disruptive to normal operations
  • Test time: two to eight hours
  • Planning cycle: four months minimum


The business continuity testing template provided in this article will help improve business continuity and disaster recovery plans. But no matter how often you test BC/DR plans, when reality strikes your response will likely be much different than in the tests.

Key strategies for testing include starting simple; raising the bar in terms of difficulty; involving vendors and stakeholders in tests; making tests so difficult it is impossible to succeed; and launching surprise tests. When launching a testing exercise program, start with plan reviews and tabletops. This will help staff get comfortable with the testing process. As they improve, increase the level of test complexity. Remember that if a test "fails" it is not a failure; rather, it is a success. It is far better to identify systems and procedures that may fail, and rectify them, before a real incident occurs. Finally, a true test is to launch a surprise incident. This will truly test how well prepared the company is to address a real incident.

The primary reason for testing is to identify deficiencies in BC/DR plans. Ideally, successful tests uncover and document problems. Tests that appear to be "successful" and uncover no problem should be suspect. Finally, tests present opportunities to fix problems before a disaster happens.

About this author: Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.

This was last published in August 2009

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