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DR testing: Adding value

At the recent Storage Decisions event in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of sitting through Jon Toigo’s presentation on disaster recovery testing. The first stat that jumped out at me during the presentation was how little DR plans are actually tested. According to Jon’s research, more than 50% of companies don’t adequately test their plan; that leads me to ask, Does the channel have a role in DR testing?

The answer to that question is yes; in fact, there are multiple ways to help customers with their DR plan. For instance, you can help them test their plan under more real-world conditions – by taking on responsibility in the case of an actual disaster. Since the people who write the plan are not likely to actually execute the plan, your presence as an outside party involved in testing, documentation and execution — if and when that time comes — can be the thread that holds the plan together.

If you work with the customer on a regular basis, say quarterly or monthly, to verify the plan, if a disaster occurred, the customer could enable your organization to start the DR process while they were en route to the DR site. They’d arrive, you’d give them the keys and they’d be ready to resume operations.

You could also work with customers to identify weaknesses in their plan. After all, you are the solution provider. You should know what tools and services can complete your customer’s DR plan or make it better.

While I certainly recommend that your organization becomes DR-savvy, to offer this service, you don’t need to be an expert in designing a disaster recovery plan; rather, you need to be an expert in executing a disaster recovery plan and tracking what did and didn’t work.

If you are not a regional or national reseller, getting into this service may also require partnerships with resellers in other cities. It would make more sense to subcontract someone you trust to test and execute the plan; that way, you avoid flying out to your customer’s DR site every time the plan needs to be tested.

From a customer point of view, this should be a compelling service. They all know they ought to test their plans, but plan testing is not fun and usually slips on the priority list. Giving responsibility to someone else, at least occasionally, who will make it their priority to test regularly is a logical solution. Even customers that already test their plans might see value in this type of service, to give an increased level of authenticity and to increase the frequency at which their DR plans are tested.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.

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I have tested with SunGard for many years, and find that as a system engineer I am able to successfully complete my tests, even though I have some unique hardware and system compilations. Whereas large companies I know that also test often do not survive real world, or finish real world scenarios. I now do a lot of side by side process and test comparisons, especially in the virtual and VDI space. It is very interesting to see the multitude of SAN storage and flexibility of data transfers types in use in the world. I would recommend testing at least once a year if not once a quarter as your systems evolve rapidly. Many companies are left without a DR plan from just disk space sprawl.