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.