Is your disaster recovery plan working? Tips for reviewing and testing

Is your disaster recovery plan working? Tips for reviewing and testing

Cyberattacks, natural disasters, hardware failures, human error. There’s a lot that can go wrong with your business, which is why it’s important to have a disaster recovery plan. But you’re unlikely to get very far if all you do is download a free DR plan template off the internet and hope it will do the trick. A thoroughly tested and updated plan is the only way to prepare your business for catastrophe.

How often should you test and update your DR plan?

Today, even the most comprehensive plan will become less accurate over time. This happens as you change your employees, technology, and business processes. Sometimes, even just out-of-date contact information can lead to costly and wholly unnecessary extra downtime.

With so many moving parts, a DR plan needs to be kept up to date all the time. It’s a job that’s never done, but that doesn’t mean it should have to occupy all your attention. Regularly testing your plan is a proactive approach that will save time and money in the long run. It will also mean you don’t have to spend weeks replacing a completely outdated plan.

DR plans should generally be reviewed quarterly or, for businesses that are often changing their processes, people, and technology, even once per month. It’s also important to review it every time you make any major changes to your organizational infrastructure. In addition to the smaller incremental updates, you’ll also want to perform a full-scale test at least once per year.

How can you test your DR plan?

Every DR plan revolves around two key parameters: the amount of data you’re prepared to lose and the amount of time it should take to get affected systems back up and running. These are known as recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) respectively.

During your testing, you might fail to meet these goals, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Rather, it’s a good chance to improve on failure by identifying areas in need of improvement. Here’s a brief overview of the various testing methodologies you can use:

  • Plan review – This is the most basic test, and one which you should do at least quarterly. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours for most businesses. It’s basically an auditing process whereby you confirm that all the details are correct.
  • Tabletop testing – This is where you get everyone involved to see how your plan works in a real-world scenario. The main goal here is to test whether everyone is familiar with their roles and duties during an emergency. However, keep in mind this isn’t a technical test; it’s more about people and processes that are the most important elements of a good DR strategy.
  • Full-scale testing – This is the most comprehensive testing methodology, incorporating both of the above and adding technical testing. It involves full-scale simulations and extensive IT testing to ensure that mission-critical systems can be recovered per your RPO and RTO goals. Full-scale tests are often conducted in secret to determine how well people respond to disaster situations without being forewarned. These tests are usually carried out once per year, since they’re the most costly and time-consuming.

If you’re living in constant fear of downtime, data loss, and other business catastrophes, Midwest Data Center is the solution. We provide robust, fully tested disaster recovery solutions for businesses in Missouri. Call us now to ensure your business’s survival.


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