Testing your technology disaster recovery plan at regular intervals will help ensure that you’re ready for the next crisis. Automated testing is an important aspect of regular testing; however, also testing the people-dependent elements of your plan is the only way to be fully prepared — whether the crisis is human-made or a natural disaster.

Why you should practice your disaster recovery plan

Disaster recovery plans are living documents — or at least they should be. Too often, organizations complete these important tools but fail to regularly test and revise the components of the plan. Even worse, 75% of small businesses have never even created a plan to recover lost data.

Creating an IT disaster recovery plan is one thing, but testing it periodically will ensure that it still works to get your business back up and running. Of the companies that have a plan, only 9% test their plan every one to five months and another 29% test every six months to a year. That leaves a lot of businesses without the assurance that their plan will actually work if the unthinkable occurs, whether it’s an adverse weather event or cyberterrorism.

From a data security perspective, simply having a disaster recovery plan isn’t enough; periodic testing can pinpoint minute vulnerabilities and help revise the plan as your business changes. Operations and data change constantly in most businesses, so your disaster recovery plan must adapt as well.

Designing your test

Creating a disaster recovery test ensures that your recovery procedures are complete and functioning. When designing your disaster recovery plan, consider any changes to your IT infrastructure along with variances in the types of disaster scenarios that may occur. Define your goals for the test, and make certain the process includes:

  • Alerts and notifications that trigger the plan
  • Procedures to follow for key personnel and an evaluation of their competence in performing these tasks
  • Hardware and network, including any manual or physical processes
  • Software and data backup plans that include the type of backup, frequency, and a recovery sequence to restart operations
  • Business processes, including mission-critical functions impacting your customers and employees
  • A rollback phase that establishes what conditions must be met before normal operations resume

You can conduct disaster recovery testing in a variety of ways:

  • On paper testing involves reading the plan and annotating it to fit changes in your business.
  • Walk-through testing takes the disaster recovery team through the physical and human steps needed to enact the plan.
  • Simulation is an IT fire drill that allows companies a dry run of recovery procedures.
  • Parallel/cutover tests check the failover recovery systems to ensure they can perform real business transactions during a crisis scenario.

Testing regularly goes beyond automated testing processes. A disaster recovery plan is not shelfware. It’s a living process that must be tested to adapt to common changes that occur in your business, from employee turnover to technology infrastructure.

Best practices for disaster recovery testing

Managing risk in today’s climate of natural or human-made disasters require an IT disaster plan that is tested and foolproof no matter what crisis occurs. Testing the plan frequently is the only way to know for sure that your business will survive a technology disaster. Infrequent testing of your disaster recovery plan can place your business at risk. Setting measurable benchmarks, then testing the team and their IT systems is a business imperative that is far too often neglected. That’s why many companies choose to work with an outside resource tasked with keeping their disaster recovery plan functioning and foolproof. Mitigate your risk by partnering with SecureNation to design, test, and implement a robust enterprise incident management disaster recovery plan for your business.

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