Testing Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan: Best Practices
Imagine the unthinkable: a cyber incident cripples your network, a natural disaster shuts down your office, or a critical system failure throws your operations into chaos. How will your business react?
The answer lies in the strength of your disaster recovery plan. I hear business leaders say all the time that they have a plan, so they are ready for anything. My experience proves that can be a critical assumption. (If this sounds like you or your management team, keep reading.)
Don’t get me wrong: having a plan is a great start; but it’s just that – a start.
A disaster recovery plan should be viewed as a living document.
Things change, people change, and you need to make sure what is true today holds true tomorrow. And one of the most important things you can do to stay ahead of disaster is to test your plan. Make sure you know who is responsible for what and that several people know how to access and restore your most recent back up.
(You are backing up your data and systems, right?)
In this article, we’ll explain the difference between an overall organizational disaster plan and one that focuses on your technology infrastructure. We’ll walk through why, when, and how to test your IT disaster recovery plan, and we'll discuss some best practices and tools to help everyone get involved in disaster readiness preparation.
What Is An IT Disaster Recovery Plan? How Is It Different From An Organizational Disaster Recovery Plan?
In addition to your overall organizational disaster recovery plan which typically deals with facilities, stakeholders, communications, legal and other considerations, it’s important to have an IT disaster recovery plan. That is what this article is all about.
An IT disaster recovery plan outlines the processes to restore operations if your IT infrastructure faces an incident. It identifies the people responsible for each action and the actions required.
Related article: What Are The Key Components Of An IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
Why Is It Important To Test My IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
When disaster strikes, there are three priorities: fixing the issue, restoring business continuity, and minimizing (or eliminating) downtime. A well-tested IT disaster recovery plan not only mitigates risks and identifies potential gaps, but it gives organizations an opportunity to take corrective action.
How Often Should I Test My IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
When establishing a testing routine, frequency matters but what’s right for your organization might not be right for another one. Here are some things to consider:
- How much risk does your organization/industry face?
- How much downtime can your organization tolerate?
- Do you back up systems and data onsite or in the cloud?
- How often does your staff turnover?
- What do your stakeholders expect?
- Do you have compliance or regulatory considerations that necessitate a certain frequency?
Some organizations may need to test their plan quarterly or monthly while others might be fine with annual or semi-annual testing.
Be honest with yourself though, don’t try to get away with the minimal amount; ensure that you establish a regular testing schedule that is based on an accurate risk profile.
Being vigilant, honest, and proactive will pay big dividends in the long run.
There is no penalty for testing too frequently.
How Do I Test My IT Disaster Recovery Plan?
It’s important to have the technology tools you need to keep your infrastructure safe and know your mission critical systems.
It’s equally important to understand and test communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, and decision-making processes. Is everyone clear about their responsibilities? What happens if a key person leaves or is on vacation when disaster strikes – what is the backup plan?
In addition, practice accessing and restoring your data backups. It is not enough to simply know where they are, you need to actively test your restoration process so that you know if there are any holes, what exactly is involved, and how long it will take.
By addressing these key components, you elevate your testing approach to a holistic level, covering all aspects of your business.
Other Best Practices For IT Disaster Recovery Plans
In addition to establishing and testing your disaster recovery plan, there are other steps you can take to ensure that your efforts follow best practices.
1. Employee Training
The human factor is often the unsung hero in disaster recovery.
With the appropriate training, your employees can be frontline heroes in a disaster. Equip them with the knowledge and skills to recognize problems and act decisively. Provide regular training, simulations, and exercises to familiarize them with the plan and build their confidence.
2. Automation & Monitoring
Leverage automation tools to streamline tasks, trigger backups, and alert your IT team to issues as they arise. Real-time monitoring systems can identify and mitigate issues before they take down your technology infrastructure. Use technology as your early warning system.
What’s The Bottom Line?
When it comes to disaster recovery, prevention is key.
After reading this article, you have a full understanding of the importance of developing and testing an IT-specific disaster recovery plan. You also know how to determine an appropriate testing frequency for your organization that does not leave you open to unnecessary risks.
You also have learned some other IT best practices you can implement to strengthen your organization’s ability to respond to an incident of any magnitude.
The goal is business continuity. By putting in the effort up front, you minimize your risk and ensure that your organization is ready for whatever comes your way. Planning and testing can help keep your organization’s mission-critical operations functioning and minimize (or eliminate) downtime.
Nobody looks forward to business disruption, but by being proactive you can mitigate the impact of glitches that will undoubtedly come along from time to time. Learn how to disaster-proof your business IT from 6 common scenarios.
If you aren’t sure where to start or are feeling overwhelmed, that’s normal. You may have internal resources you can work with to get your business needs in order. Or, you may need to explore an external partnership with a reliable IT service provider.
Either way can work and the most important thing is that you get things sorted before you need them.
Considering exploring an outsourced IT partnership? Evaluate several options to ensure that you get the right fit for your organization.
Read this article to learn how to select the best IT provider for your organization.
Or, if you really just want to talk to a person to figure out the right path for you, use the button below to provide your contact information and one of our IT solutions experts will reach to start a conversation. No sales pitch, just a conversation about how you currently handle your technology and your goals for your business.