Stages of Disaster Recovery Planning – Testing the Plan

Stages of Disaster Recovery Planning – Testing the Plan

So you have your systems in place, you have your documentation and if things go south in true Gloria Gaynor style ‘You Will Survive’. But will you? Will it work?

Testing the DR plan is more important than making it because if it doesn’t work you’ll waste time trying to get it to work and could just prolong the outage.

Plan a few mini-tests to see if the elements of the plan work, validate your assumptions and documentation. Take the inevitable gaps and fill them, then iterate again, to ensure it works. Be sensible in your testing however and don’t go pulling cables out or shutting off power (at first anyway – that kind of adrenaline should be saved for jumping out of airplanes)

For example if you want to test if a system will work when the servers crash get everyone to back-up their files and pull out the network cable, it’s the same as losing them but without the permanency.

One element that should be tested at least once a quarter is the quality of your backups. Make sure you restore files as a test every 3 months and ensure that all relevant data is included in the backup. Has someone added a new folder outside the backed up area? Has a file become corrupted and you’re just backing up the corruption?

The first full DR test you do will almost inevitably fail, it’s not your fault (unless it was!) but you need to set expectations. Document what goes wrong along with what goes right, fix it and once you have a working plan put it together and put everything in a ‘battle box’

The ‘battle box’ is where you put everything from procedures to software media, to contact lists. It is your one stop source of information in the event of an emergency. And have 2 boxes, one onsite somewhere secure and one offsite in an accessible location in the event it’s a full building event. One mistake some people make is leaving it at x’s house because he’s nearby. What if x is on holiday? Choose a location that can be accessed 24/7 and does not rely on a single point of failure. One good place is the offices of your IT provider that way they can just bring them with them on the way to the outage or DR site.

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