Ask These Questions to Plan Your Disaster Recovery Test
2020 came with so many unplanned challenges and disruptions, it wouldn’t be surprising if your business skipped its annual disaster recovery test. Or maybe you decided that enabling all your employees to work remotely served the same purpose as a DR test.
Neither approach is ideal. If you skip DR testing, you won’t know that your disaster recovery plan has gaps or errors. Enabling employees to work remotely is only part of a disaster recovery strategy and doesn’t provide a comprehensive test.
So if you didn’t do a full test in 2020, make sure you get back on track and complete a test in 2021. With careful planning, you can conduct the test in ways that minimize impact on the business.
Questions to Think About When You Plan a Disaster Recovery Test
In order for a test to be effective, you need to know what you’re testing and what you hope to learn from the experience. DR testing can be done in many ways, but if you don’t consider these questions first, the process may not give you the insights you hope for.
1. What is the goal of the test?
Disasters can be big or small; they can keep employees from reaching the office when systems are up in the data center, or the data center can be unavailable wherever employees are located. One critical system might be down or all systems may be down. Or perhaps just one element of a workload, perhaps its database, fails. Maybe ransomware locks up key files. Depending on which scenario you want to test, you may want to choose a different a test strategy and write a different test script.
2. What is the least disruptive way to conduct the test?
There are several different ways to conduct a disaster recovery test. Some errors can be found by simply doing a group read-through of the plan. This has minimal disruption, but won’t find errors that employees simply don’t know of, and also can’t find problems such as recovery procedures that take much longer than expected. In contrast, a complete failover of all resources to a secondary site will test a complete recovery process but takes longer and introduces much more disruption and much more risk.
3. Who will participate in the test?
Some aspects of the test will be handled by the IT team; others need business participation. While IT isn’t responsible for business operations, if recovery requires the business to fall back to older processes or to manually enter data to restore consistency, it’s important to get their participation to make sure that aspect of recovery can succeed.
4. What will you do with the test results?
If you don’t learn something from the test, you haven’t done it right. How will you make sure you don’t lose that knowledge? If you ran into problems during the test, how will you make sure the test plan is revised to account for them? Do you need to have another test to make sure the changes are correct?