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The importance of a disaster recovery test

In every disaster recovery methodology, testing is a huge component. What makes a disaster recovery test so important?

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I could recite lots of platitudes, but as a practical matter, testing is critical to change management in disaster recovery planning. From this standpoint, testing helps to identify "gaps" in the recovery capability that you have developed to respond to a disruptive event and to assure continuous or near continuous business operations.

You need to test periodically to identify changes in personnel, business processes, applications and technology infrastructure -- things that change constantly in the real world -- that may impact the strategies you have developed to accomplish the three core objectives of DR: data restoration, application re-hosting and user reconnection. Following the disaster recovery test, you take the information acquired to improve the plan. Then you retest.

The more important value of DR testing is rehearsal. Plans tend to be complex instruments with lots of moving parts that require multiple recovery teams to work in concert. The more you can rehearse, the better your team members will understand their individual roles and the interdependencies between what they are doing and what others are doing. That is very important since it enables the teams to work in a mostly independent way and to perform tasks in a reasonably dependable way even in the face of a great irrationality -- a disaster.

This was first published in July 2013

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