Will Your Disaster Recovery Plan Work When You Need It?

The importance of an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan can’t be overstated. When systems go down, the business goes down, and getting things back online quickly is crucial. Don’t wait until a disaster strikes to discover the gaps in your plan. Use tools that make it easier to keep your plan up to date and conduct annual (or more) tests that verify it will work.

Use Tools That Make It Easier to Update Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Out-of-date disaster recovery plans don’t help you get systems running again, so the plan needs a periodic update to reflect changes in systems, personnel, and procedures. Change management is critical to ensure that configuration changes are captured and applied to disaster recovery infrastructure as well as production instances. Consider using DR monitoring tools that can scan production daily to identify changes in production and validate that the DR environment is up to date.

Conduct Disaster Recovery Tests

Today’s infrastructure makes it easier than ever to conduct disaster recovery tests with minimal disruption to the business. Virtual machines, cloud, and Disaster Recovery as a Service all reduce the effort to roll over processing from production to secondary servers.

Tests should be conducted at least once per year. The tests validate that your plan will work and let you meet your recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives, as well as identifying where the plan fails and needs to be revised.

There’s a wide range of options for conducting DR tests. Depending on how long it’s been since the last DR test and how complex your technology environment, testing can include:

  • Table walkthroughs of the test plan. Get everyone who will participate in the disaster recovery process to sit together to walk through the plan to identify gaps or omissions. This approach can identify obvious problems but won’t identify subtle issues or verify that the recovery process will complete as quickly as you need.
  • Scenario testing. Extend the table walkthrough to handle specific scenarios where things don’t run smoothly. This requires identifying failure points in advance and lets you see whether your plan is robust enough to handle them. Consider potential problems such as hardware failures, lost backups, or key personnel who can’t be contacted. Only the test facilitator should know the scenarios in advance so participants need to react in real-time as they would during a real disaster recovery.
  • Simulate disaster. The most effective way to test the recovery plan is to execute it for real, in the real environment. Because this can impact real production, it’s best to schedule this when production will be down; even if your environments support parallel testing, a simulated DR test will distract personnel from production work. It’s important to know how you’ll restore production before you conduct this type of test!

Whichever approach you use for testing, it’s important to schedule time to review the issues that were identified and incorporate updates and corrections into your disaster recovery plan. Be sure the revised plan is distributed to all personnel who will need to participate in a real disaster recovery process.

Disaster recovery planning is hard, and it’s not uncommon for tests to discover major gaps in the process, like omitting any recovery steps for recently added systems. Prescient Solutions’ disaster recovery services help companies define comprehensive disaster recovery strategies and provide the support to implement and execute them effectively. Contact us to learn more about how you can improve your disaster recovery plan and protect your business better.

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