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DR testing infrequent at best

Have you tested your DR plan?

The number of IT shops that have disaster recovery (DR) plans is on the rise. According a recent survey of Storage readers, 83% have some sort of DR plan. However, the number of IT shops that have tested their DR plan recently is less reassuring. Thirty percent of respondents with a plan either haven't tested it in at least a year or--worse yet--have never tested it.

Within the Fortune 1000, the situation is only marginally better. According to a custom study performed for replication and DR software provider XOsoft, 44% of respondents test their DR solution only once per year. Not surprisingly, only 55% of survey takers were confident of their DR plans--the remaining 45% were either "Somewhat confident" or "Did not know."

"Users don't test their DR plans unless they absolutely have to. Period," says Jeff Beallor, pres-ident of Global Data Vaulting (GDV), a secure backup and DR provider in Toronto. As part of GDV's service, the company asks clients on a quarterly basis to name the top 10 files they need to recover, and then reports on how long it took for them to be recovered.

For Banner & Witcoff Ltd., an intellectual property law firm with headquarters in Chicago, the trick to keeping up with DR testing has been to make it a regular part of the IT staff's monthly to-do list. "There are always a million good reasons to put off testing your DR plan," says Bill Costello, IT director. The firm sets aside the last Sunday of every month to failover two of the 13 servers it replicates to a co-lo facility, ensuring that each server is failed over twice per year. For replication, the firm uses NSI Software's Double-Take.

The testing, Costello finds, is invaluable; "we learn something every time we do it," he says. As part of the exercise, the staff also documents the steps they take to perform failover, and have compiled a plain English "DR for Dummies" manual that should make it possible for a novice staff member to initiate a recovery in case no one else is available.

Getting users to perform regular tests of their DR plans also means making testing easier. To that end, XOsoft has a product called Assured Recovery, which tests the viability of replicated Exchange, SQL Server and Oracle environments in the background, without having to take down and reboot the system. So far, Assured Recovery is available only for XOsoft's WANSync and WANSyncHA replication products, but according to Leonid Shtilman, XOsoft's CEO and founder, it's agnostic to the underlying replication engine and could be licensed to OEM partners.

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