Yes, there is one thing that can derail your Disaster Recovery Plan. Let me explain.
According to research from the Disaster Recovery and Preparedness Council, one-third of companies test their DR plans only once or twice a year and 23% of companies never test their DR plans. If there is one thing that can cause your DR plan to fail even before a disaster, it’s not testing it.
Our own research indicates that 46% of companies don’t test their disaster recovery plans and close to 32% test only once a year. Whether the number is higher or lower is not the point. If you don’t test your plans you are risking your company’s future.
When companies do test their DR plans, the results are most disturbing. More than 65% do not pass their own tests! – DRbenchmark.org
The fact that 65% of companies don’t pass their own tests is indicative of the problem. Not passing the DR test could have many consequences, from increasing recovery time (which would impact your overall cost of downtime) to even permanently losing data or worse.
Goals for Proper Disaster Recovery Testing
Another point to consider is that without proper DR testing, expectations coming from senior management could be inconsistent with the actual capabilities of your plan and DR technology. Forrester Research conducted a survey on Disaster Recovery Preparedness and found that the biggest challenge most companies face when recovering from a disaster is not the recovery itself, but rather what they called “mismatched business expectations with IT capabilities.”
So there are some lessons learned here. I see Disaster Recovery Testing serving five key goals:
- Validate that your DR plans work according to expectations
- Get executive support and buy-in
- Promote DR best practices throughout the organization
- Train employees and senior managers on what to do during an actual disaster
- Align expectations from all constituencies
Making DR Testing Work For You
How can you make sure that DR plans are tested regularly? First, you have to make sure that there is company-wide support and executives are onboard to conduct the test, review results, and act on them. At the same time, you should make sure that you have disaster recovery technology that supports active testing. The best disaster recovery solution will have DR testing made easy, in the form of sandbox testing that allows you to exercise your DR Plan without interrupting operations.
While some elements of your DR plan and testing exercise may require some form of interruption to the normal flow of activities at your company (for example, asking employees to vacate the premises and reconvene at a secondary location), the testing of server failover, file restores, and other similar operations don’t have to wreak havoc to your operations.
That’s why companies are starting to review DR technology, taking into consideration their testing requirements. If you have to unplug a server from the network just so that you can test a failover to a secondary server, you will have to account for that task during your exercise. For companies using a managed service for disaster recovery, there are logistical steps required in order to have the data center or the service provider assist in your DR testing exercise. In the end, there are many hours related to DR testing that might be eaten up by activities related to the DR technology and architecture you employ.
Axcient customers, on the other hand, have a handy tool at their disposal to assist with disaster recovery testing exercises. Local and cloud-based failover of servers can be easily done with the click of a button and you can decide whether the failover is to happen in a production or test capacity.
By making it a test, users can work in a sandboxed environment and fully test their disaster recovery plans without impacting production. This can be done with an individual server, multiple servers at a time or even with the full office by using Axcient’s “office virtualization” capability in which your IT infrastructure is mirrored to the Axcient cloud (Active Directory servers, MS Exchange and other application serves as well).
Getting Your Disaster Recovery Plan to Work
At a time when a large number of companies create DR plans without testing them, your company can be at a significant competitive advantage simply by putting your DR plan to work. As you test and refine, your company as a whole will be in a better spot and become more resilient.
So if there is one thing that can derail your DR Plan (lack of testing), then there is definitely one key action you can take today to prevent that from happening: institute routine DR testing.