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Are you testing your disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a structured document containing clear instructions and guidelines on responding to unexpected incidents or disruptions such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, power outages, and data loss. A comprehensive DRP protects business continuity against the ever-expanding digital threat surface and other uncontrollable risk factors.

A majority of businesses have a working DR strategy. But it’s one thing to create a DRP and another to ensure that all the disaster response mechanisms work. The final step in developing a DRP is continuous testing. That means regularly assessing and updating the plan as the business and other external factors change. You only get one shot to try out your disaster recovery plan during a crisis. So, it’s best to make sure the plan works then through repeated trial and error.

Here is a short guide explaining all the critical stages in testing a DRP:

Come up with a testing schedule

There is no limit to how often you can test your disaster recovery plan. In fact, the more frequently, the better. But as a rule of thumb, test your DRP at least once every year. Making significant changes in the organization, such as implementing new IT solutions, expanding the workforce, updating workflows, or branching to a new location, also warrants off-schedule tests.

Come up with a testing time frame based on your business continuity planning maturity levels, size of the enterprise, and available resources.

Set clear goals and objectives

Define the test’s goals and objectives to have a clear idea of what to look for and what to expect. Recovering from a disaster means resuming normal business operations after a disruption. But every business, depending on its characteristics, takes a unique recovery path. Identify the various elements in your recovery processes and base the test objectives on their performance indicators. In general, there are two key objectives in every disaster recovery solution:

  • Recovery Time Object (RTO): A measure of how quickly you need to restore business operations before reaching a critical breaking point.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO): Describes the amount of data that can be lost during and after a disaster before that loss exceeds the business continuity plan’s maximum allowable threshold.

Choose a test that fits your needs

There are several different ways to test a DRP. Choose a test approach that will give you the desired result while touching on the particular areas of interest. Some popular disaster preparedness tests include:

  • Paper test: A representative of the DR team reads and annotates the disaster recovery document, explaining the laid-down procedures, checklists, policies, roles, and timeframes.
  • Walkthrough test: A walkthrough test involves all interested parties. Participants identify and discuss any issues that need modifications.
  • Simulation test: This is a mock drill scenario where the entire organization practices the recovery procedures in real life.
  • Parallel test: In this test, the failover systems are assessed to determine whether they can perform as expected.
  • Cutover test: The failover systems temporarily take over the primary system’s role in an attempt to carry out all business operations using only the backup facilities.

Define the test parameters

A disaster recovery plan includes various procedures for data availability, communications, labor access, and so on. At this stage, you can choose your test’s scope by defining the areas you want to cover. The scope also determines the stakeholder, third-party suppliers, and employees to involve in the test. It’s also important to understand the test’s constraints, such as funding and time window.

Run the test and document the results

Finally, run the test and document the whole process, and most importantly, the results. By comparing the actual test results and the DRP’s expectations, you’ll be able to identify the areas that need adjustments and any necessary procedures to add. Remember, the main reason for testing a disaster recovery plan is to root out all the weak strategies while reinforcing and updating your disaster readiness.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses do not reopen after facing a disaster. Many more businesses fail within a year or two after suffering major disruptions. Having a disaster recovery plan that’s always ready to go future-proofs your organization and guarantees its continuity, even in crises.

Connect with experts

There is too much at stake to leave your disaster recovery plan to anyone but the experts. Let our team of professionals create and test your disaster recovery plans, so you can focus on running your business. Contact us to learn more.

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