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In addition to periodically testing your disaster recovery (DR) site, DR testing tools can constantly monitor the site's readiness to recover from a disaster.

Testing the storage portion of your disaster recovery (DR) plan requires tools to ascertain if data was backed up properly. Proper testing may also require an application to constantly monitor the DR site's storage infrastructure--from the number of disks to the configuration of RAID arrays--to ensure it works and matches the storage configuration at your primary site.

The first place to look for confirmation that critical backups and data replications to the DR site took place is the backup and replication software you're using and the reports it generates. In addition, the same tools storage administrators use for day-to-day storage efficiency and management can help assess the health of their backup infrastructures, says John Sing, a senior consultant on business continuity strategy and planning at IBM Corp.

Next, you should test the recoverability of data and apps from the DR site. How often each test is run and how extensive each test should be varies; many firms perform tests of one or several apps, or on selected portions of the backup environment to reduce DR testing costs and avoid the risk of disrupting production apps.

Patrick Honny, departmental information systems manager for the County

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of San Bernardino Auditor/ Controller-Recorder, performs an overall DR test (based on the assumption that the entire primary site has failed) once a year. He also tests the storage portion of his DR plan once a month. "Basically, that's as simple as repointing production servers to the Isilon [Systems Inc.] SANs that are receiving replicated data and pulling up some files," he says.

Production-level testing
Some users may want to test their DR environment under actual production-level conditions with, for example, the actual number of users an app supports and the level of transactions the app needs to process in specific time intervals. In those cases, automated software can be used to reduce the time, effort and expense required.

IBM's Sing, who uses automated testing tools, says he "can no longer afford to take five, 10 or 15 highly paid individuals off their jobs and dedicate them to two days of testing." Automated test tools ensure tests are done consistently and can be repeated over time, which makes them more useful for auditing purposes.

For example, Compuware Corp.'s Hiperstation line of software "records network traffic heading to and from the mainframe," says Mark Schettenhelm, Hiperstation product manager. It can then be used to access a remote site "and it's as if you have a hundred people beating away at that system," he says.

This was first published in May 2008

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