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How often to test disaster recovery plans

Disaster recovery services must include regular disaster recovery plan testing, depending on customers' threat risks and change management needs. The following Q&A is excerpted from Greg Schulz's podcast on disaster recovery preparedness and planning.

How often should a customer's disaster recovery plan be tested and how?

This is going to vary, going back to how much does the environment change. If the environment is fairly static, things are pretty predictable. It may not require as much testing, or as much review and updating. On the other hand, an organization that's constantly changing, updating procedures, policies, new people coming in, new people taking on new roles and responsibilities, new applications coming on, changes to the applications, changes to the infrastructure, etc... those changes need to be continually updated. The disaster recovery plan must be integrated as part of the ongoing business, just as you would incorporate other functions, change control, change management, turn over, testing, things like that. Updating the DR plan is just another part of that overall process.

When you test, what does that mean? Does that mean going out and recreating everything, bringing up everything at a cold site and totally recovering? At some point, yes, you do want to do that. Depending on your customers' threats, business exposure and business impact, you may be required to do that once a year, once a quarter, on a regular basis, either in entirety or auditing key pieces.

At a minimum, organizations of all sizes should periodically test and audit backups. If your customers are backing up to tape, randomly select a tape and see if you can recover that tape to another system onto another scratch disk. Verify that the data you expect to be out there is (1) actually out there on the tape and (2) actually recoverable and has full integrity and data coherency.

The above Q&A was excerpted from Greg Schulz's disaster recovery services podcast. For the complete collection of Q&As, visit our Tips-to-Go: Data Disaster Recovery Services Tutorial.

This was last published in July 2007

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