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Today's disaster recovery technologies can make the process of testing the recoverability of critical systems a snap. A traditional DR test plan involves many people; extensive preparations to ensure the availability of systems, networks, databases and other resources; and thorough documentation of procedures. And that's before the test even starts.
By contrast, advances in DR technology now make it possible to perform a system failover to a backup environment in seconds and then fail the recovered system back to its normal production status in the same amount of time. The "old-fashioned" way can often take hours, and if the DR test is unsuccessful, additional hours of forensic work may be needed to determine what went wrong and conduct a follow-up test.
Here are some available technology tools and resources that can make a DR test plan a more pleasant and less time-consuming experience.
Migrate your existing systems and infrastructure to a high-availability (HA) environment to build in additional layers of fault tolerance or load balancing. This hardens your IT infrastructure and makes it more resistant to disruptions, and can also increase your ability to prevent a disaster from happening.
However, if one or more HA platforms, data, applications or infrastructure elements are disrupted, available technology offerings can greatly simplify your ability to quickly recover data and move critical systems to alternate platforms, where they can maintain virtually uninterrupted operations. An example of this kind of DR software is Double-Take from Vision Solutions. Once the preparations have been made, and the recovery environment is operational, launching Double-Take is simple and failover of the primary system to the backup can take a matter of minutes. Once the emergency has been addressed, failing back to the original platform also occurs quickly.
High availability and disaster recovery are not the same. HA ensures the entire platform has sufficient redundancy -- if one or more service components are disrupted, the overall platform or service remains available. By contrast, DR assumes an alternate site with a suitable infrastructure is available so that data or the disrupted service can be recovered at the standby site.
Many system vendors offer disaster recovery to enhance their products and services. It may not be necessary to invest in a third-party offering if your vendor offers its own DR products. For example, VMware offers numerous DR products to protect the many virtual machines your organization will develop. Check for available DR testing support options.
Disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) has quickly become a useful DR option. Cloud service providers that offer DRaaS typically present a suite of cloud-based recovery options for backing up data, hardware and software -- they can help you prepare a DR test plan. Alternatively, you can elect to plan and manage DR tests yourself, and your DRaaS provider can support those efforts.
Despite the many available options for DR testing, you may decide to build your own. Be mindful of the platforms to be recovered and the infrastructure resources available to support a DR test plan, and carefully define your recovery requirements before proceeding. As with any third-party products that generally include their own documentation, thoroughly document your testing procedures.
A DR test plan is important for every IT organization. Mission-critical systems, networks, applications, hardware devices and databases -- as determined in a business impact analysis -- should have a documented recovery strategy and be tested periodically to ensure they can be recovered. Many options are now available to make DR testing a much easier process, and access to them should hopefully encourage more regular testing.
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