Disaster recovery and business continuity testing best practices

We've compiled our top seven tips and articles on BC and DR testing to help you design the best BC and DR plans and tests for your company.

Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) testing has long been a pain point for many companies. Due

to either budgetary restraints, a small DR staff, or limited resources and knowledge, companies in general do not plan and test their DR plans frequently enough. According to a recent Storage magazine/SearchStorage.com disaster recovery survey, more than 50% of respondents were confident that their disaster recovery plans would save their company from a disaster. However, one-third of those respondents admitted that they don't regularly test their plans. Furthermore, 52% of respondents have a disaster recovery site fewer than 100 miles from their data center. And, according to the survey, some respondents admitted to setting up a DR site in the past, but never even tested it to see if it would work in a disaster.

Business continuity and disaster recovery experts stress that business continuity plans and tests are essential for your IT disaster recovery environment, but why? "Technology is vital to the operation," said Harvey Betan, an independent business continuity consultant. "Without a robust disaster recovery plan, an interruption in technology could bring business to a halt. An untested disaster recovery plan is a serious risk, since many things can occur that one would not think are issues."

If poor business continuity testing is occurring in so many companies today, these organizations are taking a huge risk for the continuity of their business operations. "Technological environments change often," said Betan. "If these changes are not addressed within the DR plan, one cannot be sure the environment will respond as expected." According to Betan, many technological changes occur in software upgrades, hardware, networks and personnel. He also emphasized that periodic testing reduces the impact of these technological changes "and gives you a better chance of full timely recovery."

To help you enhance your business continuity plan testing, we've compiled our top seven articles and tips on disaster recovery and business continuity plans and tests. Learn about the most important business continuity testing strategies, how to achieve cost-effective business continuity and DR and how often to conduct a disaster recovery test. Also, download our free business continuity testing templates and guides for the latest advice on how to get your disaster recovery tests up and running.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #1--------------------------------------------

Business continuity testing templates: A free download and guide
Business continuity and disaster recovery testing isn't easy for all organizations. DR and BC tests involve careful planning, funding from management and a detailed process that runs from pre-test all the way to post-test. Many companies either don't have the knowledge, resources or staff to test their DR plans. To help people overcome these challenges, SearchDisasterRecovery.com has created a business continuity testing template and guide. This detailed guide defines a business continuity test and the importance of having a BC test in your DR environment. You'll learn how to use our business continuity test template, who should be involved in BC/DR testing and how to develop effective business continuity/disaster recovery testing strategies. Plus, we provide you with an extensive list of BC testing terms that will help guide you through our template. Be sure to download our free business continuity testing template to make sure your disaster recovery testing strategies are accurate and up to date.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #2--------------------------------------------

Metrics for measuring business continuity management performance
An important factor in successful BC testing is good business continuity management. BC management is put in place to measure the performance of the business continuity program. Having a good management team in place ensures that business processes such as BC testing are getting analyzed and fulfilling company objectives. This article provides a two-tier model that can be used to measure your company's business continuity performance. Tier-one metrics analyze the basic underpinnings of a business continuity program. Tier-two metrics are more detailed and granular, and are often found in DR plans that deal with data protection and recovery. Read this article on business continuity management performance to make sure your BC program is performing up to expectations.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #3--------------------------------------------

Disaster recovery testing strategies
The strategies for traditional disaster recovery planning and testing have been the same for a number of years. Companies would devise an annual test plan, present it to management, schedule testing events, execute the tests and analyze the results. However, this strategy for DR testing may not be efficient for the computing world. In this column by Jon Toigo, find out essential disaster recovery testing strategies such as building up to recovery testing, making sure the right people and processes have been identified for recovery testing, deploying geoclustering/WAN clustering solutions, and more. Read about disaster recovery testing strategies in this column.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #4--------------------------------------------

Achieving cost-effective disaster recovery testing and planning: Nine areas where you can cut costs
Although disaster recovery testing and planning are important for the business continuity of organizations, many companies don't implement a plan or don't test a plan because of the costs associated with them. However, just because DR planning and testing can be expensive, that doesn't mean to give up on it all together. Companies should look for ways to cut costs, not plans and tests. This article provides you with nine areas where you can save on disaster recovery planning and testing. They include: Eliminate idle assets, standardize, automate, virtualize, operationalize, document, simplify, compartmentalize testing and optimize data. Read about these disaster recovery testing cost-saving areas in this article.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #5--------------------------------------------

How often should I conduct a disaster recovery test?
So you've devised a disaster recovery plan for your company; now you might be wondering how often to test this plan. Once a year? Twice a year? Once every few months? Ultimately, how often a company should test their DR and BC plans depends, but the most important thing to remember is that they have to be tested. Read more about the frequency of disaster recovery testing in this expert response by Harvey Betan.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #6--------------------------------------------

Companies struggle to make time for disaster recovery tests
Besides not knowing how often to conduct a disaster recovery test, many companies struggle to find the time to test their DR plans. Companies with small data storage or DR teams often put disaster recovery testing as a low priority on their list of things to do because they get involved with other pertinent projects and obligations. Disaster recovery testing is often on the list of things to do, but is also often neglected. Consultants and analysts strongly advise against this. Companies take a big risk by putting testing to the side. Read more about how organizations prioritize business continuity testing, and the reactions from data storage experts and analysts in this article.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY TESTING STRATEGY #7--------------------------------------------

Disaster recovery solutions: A guide on DR planning and testing strategies
An issue that often pops up regarding disaster recovery planning and testing is whether or not the plan will work during a disaster. So many choices are available to employ in a DR plan that storage managers often don't know which one to choose, or how to go about combining the technologies that will best help their company withstand a disaster. SearchDisasterRecovery.com has put together an e-guide to help you better plan and test your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Read about VMware Site Recovery manager, hot and cold disaster recovery site options, the low-down on replicating virtual machines and disaster recovery testing tips. Download our free e-guide on disaster recovery solutions to help hone in on your DR skills, find the gaps in your DR plan and help build an effective testing plan.

Editor's Tip: For more information on business continuity testing and disaster recovery planning, bookmark our special section on disaster recovery planning/management.

This was first published in August 2010

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