5 Ways to Test IT Disaster Recovery Plans - dummies

5 Ways to Test IT Disaster Recovery Plans

By Peter H. Gregory, Philip Jan Rothstein

Part of IT Disaster Recovery Planning For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Testing is a natural part of the lifecycle for many technology development efforts: software, processes, and — yes — disaster recovery planning. Disasters don’t occur very often so you seldom can clearly tell if those DR plans will actually work. And given the nature of disasters, if your DR plan fails, the organization may not survive the disaster.

Here are the five types of disaster recovery tests:

  • Paper test: Individuals read and annotate recovery plans.

  • Walkthrough test: Groups walk through plans to identify issues and changes.

  • Simulation: Groups go through a simulated disaster to identify whether emergency response plans are adequate.

  • Parallel test: Recovery systems are built/set up and tested to see if they can perform actual business transactions to support key processes. Primary systems still carry the full production workload.

  • Cutover test: Recovery systems are built/set up to assume the full production workload. You disconnect primary systems.

Structure your DR testing in the same way you structure other complicated undertakings, such as software development and associated testing. Just follow these steps:

  1. Determine how frequently you should perform each type of test.

  2. Test individual components.

    Note any discrepancies, and then pass the plan back to the people who wrote each section so they can update it. This process improves the quality and accuracy of the DR plan, which increases the likelihood that the organization will actually survive a disaster if one occurs.

  3. Perform wider tests of combined components.

  4. Test the entire plan.

By performing these four steps, you can identify many errors during individual tests and correct those errors before you do more comprehensive tests. This process saves time by preventing little errors from interrupting comprehensive tests that involve a lot of people.