You've Completed Your First DR Test ... Now What?

Congratulations, you've done your first disaster recovery test. This is a major milestone. No plan — regardless of how cogently you may have constructed it — can be considered useful until you've put it through its paces. With that in mind, you've still got work to do. That first test was just a warm-up, and you've now got to set your sights a bit higher to better evaluate the plan's true level of efficacy.

When you started preparing for that first test, it's likely that you started with a small set of simple objectives designed to feel things out. A wise decision, as the goal with disaster recovery testing is to gradually ramp up both rigor and scope to simulate conditions as close to a real-life scenario as possible. Before transitioning from this initial "crawl phase" to your "walk phase" of testing, though, you should perform a thorough evaluation of your first test.

If you laid out a series of objectives and specific questions to be answered beforehand, you're ahead of the curve, as you'll need to assess these to determine which parts of your plan are working and which aren't. The key question to ask is, "Did the plan restore related systems and services as intended?" Beyond that you'll also want to evaluate the time that it took to implement the plan and the impact that the outage had on your operations. The answers to these questions will help you understand the ramifications of a disaster and refine the recovery plan to peak efficiency.

As part of this refinement process, recording and learning from faults that took place during the first test is critical. Based on your predefined criteria, did a team member "drop the ball" during testing, for instance? Learning about this during the first test is preferable to doing so down the line, as you can now implement steps to avoid a repeat of this failure. Perhaps the answer is additional training or a modification to that team member's role in the DR plan. Whatever the solution is, it, along with other refinements, should be thoroughly discussed in your post-test meetings with all participants involved with the DR strategy.

Report on both your successes and failures to your management, then prepare for your next test. With the knowledge you've gained, you can make it more successful than the first. discovaIT is well-versed in helping companies assess the status of their DR program and refine strategies for increased responsiveness and effectiveness.