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Disaster Recovery Test Exercises

Disaster recovery is often compared to life insurance — a way for wealthy organizations to insure their assets against a worst-case scenario. But with the reliance of modern businesses on IT and the sophistication of modern cloud disaster recovery it has become more like health insurance — a critical investment in your business’ ability to survive a worst-case scenario.

Good service level agreements (SLAs) are necessary but not sufficient. If your provider fails to meet those SLAs in a disaster, a credit won’t undo the damage to your business. You need to choose a partner who uses disaster recovery test exercises to ensure they’re prepared to meet their commitment when disaster strikes

Disaster Recovery Exercise Types: Active vs. Passive

Disaster recovery test exercises activate recovery systems to make sure both the technology and the team operating it function as desired. In active exercises, production is actually taken offline and failed over to a recovery site to simulate a real disaster. In a passive test, the recovery site is brought online and tested, but there is no failover — production continues to run as normal. This reduces disruption, but it carries certain risks. Usually when people setup DR, they only set it up for critical systems, but they may miss a dependency if production stays online.

For example, take a utility server that does mail relay. If the mail relay stays up in production during passive disaster recovery test exercises, the recovery systems will seem to work, and the testers won’t notice that it’s relying on the production system — until disaster strikes, that is. However, an active disaster recovery exercise would show that the DR system can’t send mail, allowing you to catch the issue in advance. The performance of next generation enterprise DR has decreased the burden of active disaster recovery test exercises, fostering greater preparation with less disruption.

Disaster Recovery Test Exercises: Planned vs. Ad-hoc

Another important distinction is between planned tests (which are scheduled ahead of time) and ad-hoc tests (where only the leader knows about the test in advance). They both can catch technical issues, but ad-hoc tests simulate disasters more accurately.

If you have strict RPO and RTO requirements, or very complicated IT infrastructure, ad-hoc testing may be worth the inconvenience, since it will better prepare your staff to act quickly and efficiently in a disaster. Similarly, if your disaster recovery program depends on a complex network of people across multiple offices, ad-hoc testing can ensure communication issues don’t hamstring you in a real disaster.

What Disaster Recovery Test Exercises Say About Your MSP

A reliable MSP will plan DR testing around the specific needs of your company. Your Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) provider should work with you to set a testing schedule based on factors such as your:

  • System complexity
  • Organizational structure
  • Tolerance for disruption
  • Tolerance for risk

At minimum, disaster recovery test exercises should be held once a year, as well as after any major system change. If your MSP has fewer tests than that, or a one-size-fits-all testing schedule, find a different MSP.

The disaster recovery testing process is all about setting goals and measuring outcomes. Your provider should set expectations for each disaster recovery test exercise including how the DR plan will work, how long it will take to bring systems online and how systems will respond once they are online. After the test, they should evaluate outcome, ask questions and adjust strategy as necessary. If it didn’t work, what needs to change — in the plan, the execution or the expectations? If it did work, are there ways to improve it further?

Your Disaster Recovery Test Exercises Aren’t a Minor Detail

Thorough testing could literally mean the difference between a minor setback and the end of your company. You need an MSP that treats disaster recovery test exercises as a crucial part of proving and improving your disaster mode plan — not as just another box to check. Read Symmetry’s latest press release on Disaster Recovery as a Service with Zerto.

Contact us to learn how Symmetry’s cloud disaster recovery can protect your company and your peace of mind, no matter what happens.

Autumn Salama - Sr. Director of Technical Operations

Autumn Salama - Sr. Director of Technical Operations

Autumn Salama is the Senior Director of Technical Operations at Symmetry where she is responsible for Symmetry’s Implementations and 24x7 Support Services team. Autumn has been in the data center and cloud infrastructure business for over a decade - managing teams responsible for everything from critical infrastructure operations, service delivery, technical support, marketing and product management. Autumn leverages her diverse experience to provide superior customer service to Symmetry Clients throughout the service delivery and on-boarding process as well front line support outside of business hours.