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Best practices for planning and managing disaster recovery testing

There are a number of best practices which are aimed at helping organizations  to significantly reduce the cost and complexity of their disaster recovery as well as testing their procedures out. 

First of all, you and your business must always be prepared for any type of disruption. You never know what might hit you, so conducting an extensive risk analysis and getting input from key stakeholders, such as operations people, department managers and application development managers is the only way to go. 

 

Be in the know

Ensure that you, your staff and most importantly, your backup provider, understand the key systems that will keep your business running and what will make a huge difference in your business operations. 

You and your backup provider should also have a thorough understanding and intimate knowledge of your systems’ interdependencies and which systems need to be brought up first.

 

Make sure the plan can stand alone 

When a disaster strikes, the staff who wrote the recovery plan may not be available to execute it, so you have to make sure your disaster recovery plan will work with or without the people who developed it. Do not hesitate to ask someone other than whomever wrote your plan to take care of disaster recovery when you’re testing it out.

 

Challenge the business 

Business unit managers will exaggerate and say they need an application recovered right now, but that application might not be as mission critical as they believe. Challenge those individuals to think hard about how long they can really make do without that application or module.

 

Test and test

A review of your plan on paper is important, but it is not enough. In addition to tabletop tests, you might need to surprise your staff with mock disasters during which your staff must handle themselves well and execute the disaster recovery plan down to the details.

 

Adjust 

So you’ve shocked everyone and ran a mock disaster for your staff. What do you do with the results of the test? This is a critical part of disaster recovery planning. First, create an action-item checklist out of your review of what worked well and what didn't, then speak to the concerned staff members. If you are working with an outside provider, you should document what went wrong and use that report to outline your expectations for the next test, as well as, of course, any disaster that might just happen.

Next - Read our article about the cost of data disasters and how to avoid having a data disaster yourself

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