Regular tests of your disaster recovery (DR) systems will help ensure your business is safe from IT catastrophe.
Major network downtime can cripple a business. In some situations, it may even threaten to shutter a business completely. How would your business fare if you were struck by a major cyberattack, or if an important server crashed?
It’s very important that you have a disaster recovery (DR) plan to deal with catastrophe. But those plans won’t offer the required protection if they’re not regularly tested and maintained.
Here are some useful steps for ensuring the success of a disaster recovery test:
Step 1 – Set Clear Goals
The only way to truly gauge the readiness of your disaster recovery system is to have a clear set of goals in mind when you start testing. The most common key performance indicators (KPIs) for a disaster recovery solution are:
- Recovery Time Object (RTO) – Measure how quickly you need to recover your IT services after a disaster before your business starts to experience serious effects.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – Some data loss after a catastrophe may be unavoidable, but how much is acceptable? RPO helps you determine this by calculating the amount of time that can pass between backup before your business is affected.
Step 2 – Prepare a Solid Test Environment
Most DR simulations involve isolating the test environment from the production environment so that the test doesn’t affect company efficiency.
When creating a test environment, make sure that it mirrors the production environment as closely as possible, so that your results are indicative of real-life performance.
- Prioritize test workloads based on the importance of each system.
- Determine which staff members are best suited for inclusion in the testing process.
- Ensure all software updates and patches have been applied to test environment.
Consider which employees you wish to tell about the test — and which you don’t. You may wish to keep parts of the test a secret to test true preparedness!
Step 3 – Choose a Test That Fits Your Needs
There are several ways to test your disaster recovery system. The first step in successful testing is determine which method is best for your organization. Popular DR testing methods include the following:
- Paper Test
Stakeholders in the DR solution take stock of the policies, procedures, checklists, and KPIs for your disaster recovery process, then walk through the DR process to locate any potential shortcomings. A paper copy of this document should be stored in a secure location, with other digital copies accessible in the cloud.
- Disaster Simulation
Simulation makes sure your DR plan — as well as DR resources like remote backups and recovery sites —are functioning. It does this by simulating an IT disaster in a test environment that mirrors as closely as possible your production network. To maximize the impact of this test, try simulating a few different scenarios and see how your systems fair in each one. Here are some popular simulation scenarios:
By flooding your network with illegitimate requests, hackers use DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks to cripple company network services, like websites and servers. Simulating DDoS attacks can help your company reduce RTO, while strengthening the integration of cloud-based back-up services, which are key in DDoS recovery.
How would your network recover from a virus that originates in a fraudulent email? Besides having a plan to account for technical safeguards, DR testing is also a good opportunity to make sure that your team is clear on how it can help mitigate the damage of a phishing attack with a fast, effective response.
- Failover System Check
This test, sometimes referred to as a “parallel test” is where you test to make sure that all the back-up or redundant systems you have in place kick into place at the right time after a serious incident. A more strenuous version of this test — known as a cutover test — brings productions systems offline to more fully simulate a real-world disaster.
Step 4 – Review Your Test and Update Your Plan
After you’ve run the DR test, you’ll want to evaluate your DR plan and make sure that your disaster recovery solution is meeting your current needs. There are several elements that companies tend to overlook when updating their plans, here are some of the most important:
Effective disaster recovery teams include having staff to manage data recovery efforts, assess impact, and supervise restoration. Are tasks being delegated properly, and is the contact information for each person involved easily available?
As systems change, make sure that resources stay allocated to protect high-impact services.
Security and Compliance Requirements
Safeguard personally identifiable information (PII) so your DR system doesn’t accidentally violate compliance requirements like HIPAA and PCI-DSS during the recovery process.
Cloud Based and SaaS Data
In the event of disaster, do you have a system for bringing cloud and SaaS data back online with the rest of your systems? In cases where cloud back-ups or images are a central part of your DR strategy, you should also account for telecommunications connectivity.
How Often Should You Test Your DR System?
There’s no easy answer to this question. You’ll want to base the frequency of your DR testing on the specific needs of our organization. Here are some events that should prompt a DR test.
- Network infrastructure changes
- Application updates and patches
- Adding new services or network devices
- Significant human resources changes
Create a Rock-Solid Disaster Recovery Testing Regimen
If you want someone to take the stress out of disaster recovery implementation and testing off your plate, the Complete Network team is here to help. We have over 20 years of experience helping businesses achieve greater peace of mind through strong, reliable DR solution.
Contact the Complete Network team at 877.877.1840 or email us at [email protected] to find out more!