How to Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Your information network is one of the most vital systems of your business. A disaster recovery plan is critical in order to maintain data in case a disaster does occur. But how do you know that your plan actually works? Or whether your staff knows what to do? To make sure your plan is effective, disaster recovery testing should be included in your risk management plan.

Types of Disaster Recovery Testing

You don’t have to simulate a disaster to check your disaster recovery plan. Using different testing methodologies allows you to work on your plan to keep it updated and effective.

Walk-through testing – In walk-through testing, your disaster recovery team walks through your plan verbally. This testing is not as disruptive as other methods, but you can’t easily see your plan in action. However, it is a great method to identify gaps or weaknesses that need to be shored up before you execute a plan.
Simulation – This type of test is a bit more intensive and realistic than walk-through testing, but still doesn’t disrupt day-to-day business activities. The disaster recovery team creates a scenario and role-plays the plan, coordinating with other sites and vendors. It may even involve actual physical testing of alternate sites and equipment.
Parallel test – This test involves recovery systems built to see if the business can be supported during a crisis while your primary systems are still running. The test mirrors the system to see what could be affected if a disaster were to happen.
Full-interruption – With this test, actual equipment and data are used to test the plan, meaning that business operations will likely be disrupted. This test may be disruptive and time-consuming, but is one of the most effective ways to discover any gaps for problems in the plan.
Sandbox – Third-party disaster recovery services can use virtual equipment to test your plan, also called a sandbox. This type of method allows full testing to occur without affecting any production servers.

How Often Should You Test?

Disaster recovery plans should not be static since your organization will change and grow over time: new personnel is hired, the infrastructure changes, business processes change, or new regulations may come into play.

We recommended testing your disaster recovery plan every six months.

Set Your Expectations

Your test may indicate that you have issues with your disaster recovery plan, but that doesn’t mean the test wasn’t successful. Remember that the purpose of the test is to identify missing elements or weaknesses before an actual disaster so that they can be resolved before an actual disaster strikes.

Planning for the Disaster Recovery Test

Have an outline for the disaster recovery test. Know the steps your team will take, the goals you want to reach, and how you will analyze the results.

  • Coordinate with your organization to make sure you won’t upset software or network upgrades.
  • Before testing, you should make sure the team understands the plan and knows their own roles. The plan should be comprehensive before the test, to give you the most information.
  • Secure management approval, support, and funding for the test.
  • Assign someone the role of documenter, jotting down general observations and notes about the test that the team can refer to later.

After the test, determine what needs work and what doesn’t. Make changes where necessary so that you have full confidence in your plan. Contact ComTec Solutions for professional experience in IT recovery plans.

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