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Disaster recovery runbook--Chapter two: Testing

When you've finished your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) homework, it's time to test your planning. This section of our DR/BC runbook focuses on finding potential holes in your plan.

When you've finished your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) homework, it's time to test your...

planning. This section of our DR/BC runbook focuses on finding potential holes in your plan. You and your business partners are relying on your IT department's ability to get mission critical apps up and running. Share holders are going to be cheesed if your data center can't deliver. So, you'd better test your plans to make sure you're ready.

Data center managers don't need too look very far for examples of failure to test their disaster recovery plans. In the case of data center colocation facility 365 Main's downtime in the fall of 2007, the failure occurred because staff had not tested their backup power systems. The facility's one-hour disaster cost some businesses relying on their 365 Main's services many hours of downtime.

Testing methods

Some data center managers are nervous about disaster recovery testing because they're worried negative consequences. How does it look to higher-ups if your data center fails the DR test? Or, worse, what about the dangers of incurring damage during the test? Staff can reduce the risks associated with DR testing by using disaster recovery software.

Furthermore, all the planning and testing in the world will only get your data center business continuity strategy part of the way there. Experts say that documentation is also necessary for disaster recovery. Information that directs people, identifies contacts and outlines other processes is just as important as testing UPS systems and other data center equipment. Furthermore, these documents can be "tested" with "exercises" to make sure that people have learned them.

Testing is a large part of what CEO and Managing Principal at Toigo Partners International LLC Jon Toigo recommends. In a his disaster recovery videocast, Toigo discusses a method for DR preparation, testing, executing and analyzing that works. Though he says that every step is important, he emphasizes testing because, aside from the actual disaster, it is the only way to find and fix flaws in your plan.

DR testing on a budget

One of the biggest challenges many data centers face is budgetary constraints limiting their disaster recovery options. Some organizations have been able to overcome these obstacles with incremental adding disaster recovery components and continually testing. Doing so allows data center managers to assess and reassess, thus streamlining critical components in their disaster recovery plans.

The majority of organizations place data center disaster recovery solely in the hands of their IT departments. But data center managers would be wise to argue that, for the good of the whole company, DR be a collaborative effort across the business. Tighter integration helps identify interdependencies during testing and you may be able to argue for sharing the cost with other departments.

This was last published in February 2008

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