Testing your disaster recovery plan: Why, when, and how

Testing your disaster recovery plan: Why, when, and how

Practice makes perfect as the saying goes, and when it comes to getting your business back up and running after a disaster, perfection is the goal. Every second wasted after a disaster strikes affects your revenue and makes it harder to bounce back, so ensuring your disaster recovery plan goes off without a hitch just makes good business sense.

Why go through the trouble of testing a disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan is a complex undertaking that requires employees to work in concert to mitigate the risks and damage caused by a disaster. This could be a natural disaster striking your facilities, a devastating ransomware attack, an insider threat, or any number of unforeseen events that cause prolonged downtime.

You want everything to go right when this plan is enacted, so you have to rehearse. An effective disaster recovery plan that has been practiced and rehearsed is a major asset and likely vital to the survival of your organization. Just some of the benefits include:

  • Reduced recovery times: Knowing how to quickly recover from and resume operations after a disaster means reduced losses and possibly a leg up on the competition.
  • Protection of vital assets: An effective recovery plan not only mitigates damage but can prevent it as well if the disaster is ongoing. Having data protection protocols for financial records and intellectual property can keep your business alive in the midst of a crisis.
  • Regulatory compliance: Many industry-specific regulations require disaster recovery plan testing, so doing so ensures compliance.
  • Preserving public trust: If disaster strikes and your team runs around like headless chickens, your customers may think twice about who they entrust their data and money to in the future.

How often should we test?

You should always test your disaster recovery plan when you implement new procedures or add a new tool or solution to the mix, such as automated data backups. After all, you don’t want your team blindsided by software or procedures they have never seen or interacted with before.

It is also recommended to perform a full test and dress rehearsal of your disaster recovery plan at least once a year. If you are in a high-risk industry or environment or are subject to strict data security regulations, more frequent testing may be warranted.

Step-by-step guide on how to perform a disaster recovery test

Testing is not all about what you do, but also how you prepare and analyze the results afterward.

  1. Define test objectives and scope: Before conducting the test, clearly define the objectives and scope of the exercise, as well as the criteria for success.
  2. Select test participants: Identify the key stakeholders and personnel who will be involved in the test and review their roles, tasks, and objectives.
  3. Develop test scenarios: Create realistic test scenarios that simulate different disasters, taking into account your organization's specific risks and vulnerabilities.
  4. Schedule the test: Surprise tests are not as effective and could cause legitimate panic. Schedule the test beforehand to give notice and prepare resources.
  5. Execute the test: Monitor and document each step of the process as it unfolds during the test, noting any issues, challenges, or deviations from the plan.
  6. Evaluate test results: After completing the test, gather feedback from the participants and stakeholders to evaluate the results. Assess the performance of the disaster recovery plan against the defined objectives and success criteria.
  7. Document test findings and update: Report on the findings of the test, including observations, feedback, and recommendations for improvement. Update the disaster recovery plan, incorporating any necessary revisions and corrective actions.

If you lack personnel with the up-to-date industry knowledge and IT expertise to effectively create and test a disaster recovery plan, contact outsourceIT today. Our DC Metro Area team has the experience and tools to ensure you have an effective, rigorously tested, and personalized disaster recovery plan to protect everything your organization has built.

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