Being prepared for disaster recovery is important… but not core to daily activities. So in a typical day, if there are twenty items on your to-do list, disaster recovery is most likely number twenty-one. But testing your disaster recovery plan can make the difference between sailing through disruption or sinking the ship.
When to test
There is no fixed interval for conducting a disaster recovery test since every business is unique. What’s important is that your plan is sufficiently up to date to allow you to recover information systems and business functions in the event of an emergency. That might be once a year or once a month, depending on changes in your organisation, personnel, technologies or facilities; at a minimum, you should test once a year. Some organisations have never tested their DR plan, while others have tested routinely yet their plans have still failed when needed. The key thing to remember is that a DR plan is a living, breathing document that is only fit for purpose when it reflects the current state of the business and its production environment, so don’t let “configuration drift” catch you off guard; there must be a strong link between DR and change management.
During the test
Testing your DR Plan means validating your recovery procedures, not simply demonstrating or rehearsing them. It’s also important that the person who creates the DR procedures doesn’t execute them – after all, they may have included mental shorthand into the procedure or devised it to be easy to carry out themselves, which can automatically introduce sources of failure. And there’s no guarantee that, at time of disaster, that individual will still be employed or not on vacation or sick leave. Task redundancy should ensure that at least two people can perform any one activity, to avoid creating a single-point-of-failure.