Monthly Archives: October 2014

5 powerful DR system testing phases

Many companies have their disaster recovery strategies down pat, with each element of their business supported by the optimal tech resources and every employee fully aware of their responsibilities. Even with a seemingly flawless recovery roadmap in place, a company may find that its plan falls flat when a crisis situation actually forces it to execute on its vision.

To minimize the risks of recovery point and time objective shortfalls, as well as reduce the likelihood of end user error, frequent and rigorous testing must be orchestrated in every enterprise and small business context. There’s simply no such thing as being too confident in a disaster recovery blueprint.

Thought leaders know best
IT expert Kevin Beaver reflected on the critical role of DR testing in a question and answer session with TechTarget. He explained that too many business leaders view their recovery assets as a solution in itself, failing to see for themselves whether their strategies will deliver the results they need in a timely, comprehensive manner.

“The most important thing to remember is to make sure that your DR plan and your staff members have what’s needed to recover your information systems and business functions in the event of an emergency,” Beaver told the source. “This may be once a year, once every three years or only after there have been major changes in the organization, its line of work, or its facilities.”

With any aspect of business strategy, of course, there is a right and a wrong way to orchestrate DR tests. Thankfully for enterprise leaders, a paper from the SANS Institute mapped out the optimal method for recovery system testing, a cyclical model that ensures every part of an organization’s plan is ready for action. Here are the five core components of the cyclic testing paradigm as explained in the report:

1. Create a checklist: The simplest and cheapest stage of the testing cycle is also the first and one of the most important. Every strategist must build a comprehensive checklist of a company’s recovery point and time objectives, as well as prioritize which digital and physical assets should be restored a disaster situation. With a complete rundown of these elements, an organization will have a solid foundation for the rest of its DR testing needs.

2. Walk through steps: Articulating the details of the recovery checklist to end users throughout the organization is essential to ensure that everyone knows their role in the roadmap to complete IT and operational restoration. This step is decision-makers’ opportunity to clarify any uncertainties that may pose problems during DR execution, as well as hold an open forum for questions.

3. Run a simulation: This is the meat and potatoes of the DR testing cycle, and the chance for an organization to see exactly how its recovery strategies hold up under pressure. Between communications, procedures, hardware, software and personnel components, decision-makers have a lot to keep track of during a properly coordinated simulation. This is a test of leadership, as well as the functionality of digital assets and employee competence.

4. Perform a parallel: While it isn’t the star of the show, a parallel test can offer insight into how accurate and timely a recovery simulation truly is. This involves matching up recorded business and IT records with those restored following the recovery action plan to ensure data and operating systems were executed within any established RPO and RTO benchmarks.

5. The real deal: A full-interruption test actually disrupts business operations to gauge the effectiveness of the total DR blueprint. This is an advanced strategy, but is highly recommended for serious enterprise operations. Assistance from a third-party service provider is advisable for any all-out interruption.

3 aspects of a fully modernized recovery strategy

Disaster recovery has come a long way since its origins as an IT afterthought at the dawn of the digital age. Companies have placed a greater emphasis on the protection and continuity of their tech blueprints during challenging stretches of coordinated network downtime and disaster-induced outages, and DR has steadily climbed the ranks as a priority for organizations in all corners of the economy.

However, even the most experienced decision-makers may still find themselves unsure about the finer details of today’s continuity and recovery advancements. Instead of risking falling behind the curve and losing ground to competitors during periods of unpredictability, smart executive leaders will learn all they can about the essential elements of a modernized DR support system. Here are three components of continuity and recovery that simply can’t go under the radar when formulating an IT plan for the future:

1. Frequent and thorough system replication: A disaster recovery system is only as good as its most recent replication, and up-to-the-minute virtual imaging is one of the most important parts of a modernized DR strategy. Data, applications and operating system settings aren’t very helpful unless they are restored in their most relevant form, so constant and complete replication is key to ensuring optimal conditions during a recovery.

According to a recent article from ComputerWeekly, establishing recovery point objectives is a great way to set realistic expectations with a DR service provider when it comes to restoring systems and information. Forming these agreements is also critical to build trust and accountability with a vendor.

2. Instantaneous recovery capabilities: How long does it take before a recovery process begins to lose its value? In this fast-paced world, recovery time objectives are getting shorter, and decision-makers must ensure their RPOs are a cut above the competition to retain an edge. ComputerWeekly pointed out that determining component-specific recovery criteria allows vendors to restore environments with greater speed and precision, and prioritizing key assets makes this possible.

It’s also crucial to remember that with DR, there’s no such thing as too much system testing. Business leaders should rigorously test their plans to see if their service providers really deliver instant recovery.

3. Automation on-premise and in the cloud: Today’s IT environments are spread across multiple data center locations and cloud settings, making complete recovery assurance a daunting task for internal IT. With the guidance of a third-party service provider, however, a company can ensure the protection of its disparate tech assets no matter where they stand geographically. Whether in the basement of the business headquarters, in a co-location facility or in a cloud server across the country, modernized DR solutions can support it all with automated precision.

“Implementing DR effectively depends on using the right technology, possibly in conjunction with cloud services, and implementing robust operational processes with as much automation as possible,” said Tony Lock, program director at analyst group Freeform Dynamics, according to ComputerWeekly.

With these three keys in mind, a company can rest assured its IT profile will be safe and sound no matter what obstacles it encounters.