Creating a disaster recovery (DR) plan is an essential part of your business continuity planning process. But, there’s more to it than just developing the plan. You must test your plan to ensure it will work in the case of an emergency—or risk failure when something goes wrong.
Even though there are costs associated with a DR test, such as consulting time, down time and potential slowdowns in productivity, it’s still critical to perform these tests. Joe Gleinser from GCS Technologies, Inc. explains why in a short video interview with OnRamp.
“We have some clients that test quarterly; we have some clients that test annually; we have some clients that test when they feel like it. All of those are good answers, but the right answer is as often as you possibly can. Testing is never inexpensive. Productivity will take a hit, consulting fees may accrue, but ultimately, it’s always worth the trade-off,” says Gleinser.
Gleinser even goes so far as to say that you should conduct a simulation to test your DR plan every time you make a change in your business environment, which can be quite often, depending on your organization. In reality, how often you should conduct a DR test will vary business to business.
First Things First
Ask yourself: how frequently does your company test your DR plan? According to the ninth annual joint Forrester and Disaster Recovery Journal’s “State of Enterprise Risk Management 2016” survey, 40% of respondents report conducting annual simulations to test their disaster recovery response plans. The report says that 27% of the respondents test more than once per year, 21% test every two years and 11% reported never having tested their DR plans at all. Without regular testing and verification of DR plans, organizations have no ideas as to whether or not they actually will be able to recover from a disaster or extended outage.
Just as disturbing is the estimate from The DR Preparedness Council, an independent research organization engaged in IT disaster recovery management, research, and benchmarking, which indicates that three out of four companies worldwide fail at DR preparedness—in large part, due to a lack of testing. Additionally, of the companies worldwide that test their DR plans, more than a whopping 65% do not pass their tests.
Improving DR Preparedness
Best practices for improving your DR preparedness include:
- More detailed DR plans. Build a DR plan for absolutely everything you need to recover, including applications, networks and document repositories, and even your entire website.
- Set Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) for critical applications. These will give you a target to shoot for and determine specific procedures for your DR plan, such as the minimum frequency for backups to be made. Measurements like these can also help you see where there’s the most room for improvement and help you make critical adjustments.
- Test plans more frequently. When DR plans are detailed and measure RTO and RPO, constant testing can set a cadence that your organization deems effective, while allowing for improvements. Automated testing helps to keep up the frequency and can keep costs down.
So how often should you be testing your disaster recovery plan?
Chances are the answer is going to be “more often than you are testing now.” There truly isn’t one magic number, but best practices indicate the more DR testing companies conduct, the better prepared they ultimately end up. Of course, there’s a point at which this may become unwieldy—if you’re spending more time on DR than your systems are worth, then you’ve got a problem—but, for the most part, businesses can never get enough DR testing.
For more information on disaster recovery and tips on how to avoid a disaster, download white paper, “10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Disaster Recovery Provider.”
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