Real disaster recovery testing


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It's not enough to have a DR plan--you need to know it will work. Repetitive, detailed tests will tell you if your DR plan is up to snuff.

We've had more than our share of disasters--hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, acts of terrorism and blackouts--but the good news is that most companies are now focused on dealing with a disaster and have a disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. Companies are paying more attention to the next level, which includes keeping DR plans current and periodically testing them. While this represents a dramatic improvement in disaster response planning, more often than not the testing component is the part of the equation that's often delayed, fails at some level or doesn't properly mirror the response activities during a real disaster.

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Key lessons learned in DR testing
  • The nontechnical aspects are as important as the technical.
  • Every staff activity should be role-based.
  • Don't assume key "utilities" are available, including air travel, power, cell phones and so forth.
  • Overly aggressive recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives usually aren't realistic. Can you fully recover from a disaster in three hours?

That said, it's time to take a detailed look at DR testing and the specific steps to take to ensure that your DR plan will perform as expected. A solid DR strategy isn't a small-ticket item. However, it should be treated as fundamental, must-have insurance to safeguard the company's information assets. There are two key aspects to a DR plan: nontechnical details, which focus on the people, policy, process and procedures of DR testing; and technical details (see "Key lessons learned in DR testing," at right).

This was first published in July 2006

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