Disaster Recovery Testing – Best Practices

One of the things 2020 taught the world was that disaster strikes with no heads-up. Therefore, businesses must be prepared for any disaster, whether a pandemic or wildfire. Businesses must be equipped to discharge the services it has been established to deliver with little or no disruption. One way of achieving this is adequate planning. This entails figuring out the essential resources and how they can be secured and backed up.

Considering the number of blackouts, hurricanes, and other disasters experienced by business organizations over the years, many organizations are tactically re-examining their disaster recovery strategies. According to Solutionsreview, a good disaster recovery plan must entail several components and practices that mitigate the risks of man-made disasters and reduce the impact of natural disasters. Furthermore, it should be able to quickly detect unwanted events and dispatch corrective procedures to restore data and ensure business continuity.

When effective practices that guarantee disaster recovery are in place, customer retention is assured, employee productivity is improved, and business continuity is guaranteed. Bearing these in mind, we’ve come up with a list of full disaster recovery best practices to consider when drawing up a disaster recovery plan.

Disaster Recovery Practices

A good disaster recovery plan is the bedrock of effective disaster recovery practices. A disaster recovery plan is a strategic and documented approach that delineates how an organization can quickly resume work after a contingency. A disaster recovery plan is an indispensable aspect of a business continuity plan (BCP). It helps an organization resolve data loss and restore system functionality to resume normal business operations in the aftermath of an incident.

Typically, the disaster recovery practices of an organization should involve an analysis of business processes and continuity requirements. Before adopting a particular disaster recovery practice, an organization must conduct a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Risk Analysis (RA). This establishes its recovery objectives. Here are some of the best practices to ensure your strategy works for your business:

  • Outline your Plans

The best time to figure out how to recover systems is before the systems go off and not during the incident. That would be a rush-hour plan. Whatever strategy you intend to adopt, document it and distribute it to everyone whose job is related to recovering systems after a disaster. Ensure that these employees have access to the plan even when systems are down.

  • Develop The Plan With a Team of Experts

Of course, setting up an effective disaster recovery practice is not a one-person job. Rather, the process involves contributions from all the internal and external stakeholders. An effective disaster recovery practice is far beyond information and technology. It also entails hardware, software, people, and processes. Organizations should therefore keep all concerned people in the loop. One way of ensuring this is to make disaster recovery tests and drills part of the company’s security practices. Also, organizations should conduct frequent employee awareness and training.

  • Decide The Disaster Recovery Practice To Adopt

All businesses can not adopt the same disaster recovery practice. Depending on the outcome of the previous steps and budget, an organization can choose any of the following DRP types:

  •  Data Center Disaster Recovery Plan:

This entails investing in a data center building as a backup. This is commonly referred to as a disaster recovery site. When the main operation experiences downtimes, this disaster recovery site is expected to be fully operational and kick in instantly. Data recovery sites are of three types:

  1. Cold Site: Cold sites are backup office spaces with power, cooling, and communication systems. Cold sites do not contain any hardware and lack a configured system. If there’s a primary system failure, the operational teams will need to transfer their servers and set everything up from scratch.  Although its setup seems a bit stressful, a cold site is the least expensive type of data recovery site. Nevertheless, it requires additional labor and may not satisfy the organization’s goals if it isn’t executed correctly.
  2. Hot site: A hot site replicates the primary data center setup. It contains all the necessary hardware, software, and network configuration. In the event of a blackout, the operations instantly connect to the hot site without delay and continue with an unnoticeable downtime. Since this type requires a constantly running setup, it is the most expensive option. As compensation, it is also the most effective.
  3. Warm site: A warm site incorporates the essential hardware with pre-installed software and network configuration. Warm sites backup only operation-critical assets at irregular intervals. This type suits organizations with less critical data and higher recovery point objectives. However, a cost-benefit analysis may be required to choose between a hot site and a warm site.
  • Virtualization based DRP

Virtualization-based DRP operates on virtual machines rather than physical hardware and recovery sites. Information pertaining to the primary infrastructure is stored and updated regularly. A virtual machine can be a database, server, or application setup. Although virtualization-based DRPs are considerably cheaper than some of the other options, they depend on a recovery strategy. Therefore, knowing the recovery software and the backup medium is crucial.

  •  Cloud-based DRP

Cloud-based DRP entails backing up essential business assets or the primary setup with a cloud provider. Cloud-based recovery practices require substantial coordination with the cloud managers regarding security, testing, and achieving the recovery time and point objectives. Organizations can determine the location of their physical and virtual servers. This option can be more expensive than virtualization-based DRP but cheaper than data center DRP.

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

Organizations that lack the expertise and resources to establish their DRP can employ the services of a third-party service provider. These providers are referred to as Disaster Recovery As A Service companies. The costs of DRaaS vary based on the disaster recovery planning goals of the organization.

  • Evaluate Your Disaster Recovery Plan and Test With Realistic Scenarios.

Any potentially-successful disaster recovery plan is defined by how well-tested it is and its test performances. An untested plan results in a misleading impression of security. Like every other business security procedure, an organization must test its disaster recovery plan regularly to ascertain its best practice for the organization. Moreover, as business requirements change due to ever-changing business conditions and dynamic business regulations, the disaster recovery practices adopted by an organization may also need slight or significant adjustments.

Whatever the case, an organization should consider the magnitude of such a process and include testing evaluation and iteration in its budgeting. Most disaster recovery practices are adopted when tested and approved by a team of experts. Furthermore, an organization is likely to omit subtle errors in its recovery plan if it doesn’t involve the appropriate personnel in the testing. Test read-throughs can be made better by running scenarios introducing various challenges into the recovery process. A successful testing activity must provide an extensive report that explains the type of tests carried out, testing frequency, procedures observed, success factors, downsides, etc.

One of the most useful feature of Storware Backup and Recovery is the Recovery Plan. Recovery Plans serve the purpose of streamlining disaster recovery procedures, enabling Storware Backup & Recovery to conduct numerous restoration actions to the designated destination environment according to predefined parameters. These recovery strategies can be initiated either at the user’s discretion or scheduled at specific intervals, such as for regular recovery testing. Each Recovery Plan is composed of guidelines, tailored to distinct virtualization platforms, that define virtual machines, restoration configurations, and, if needed, timing. Only those guidelines flagged as active are put into action.

  • Have a disaster recovery playbook

Now that you’ve chosen a disaster recovery plan, you should create a disaster recovery plan that entails several details about your data recovery plan, such as your recovery time objectives, recovery time objectives of each service, a step-by-step recovery plan based on the type of disaster recovery plan chosen, a rundown of the employees in charge of each operation, information about emergency responders, etc.


  • Data Loss & Backup Recovery

One of the crucial catastrophe recovery scenarios to test for is this one. When data loss occurs, the business must be able to restore the lost data from a backup, or business continuity will be jeopardized. Whether it’s a single file deletion or server failure, the situation could become unpleasant if data can’t be restored.

So, what exactly do you test? Firstly, you should ensure that your backups are viable and can be restored. Perform tests on both file-level restores and full machine recoveries to ascertain that both operations can be completed in a real-world event. After testing, you should consider the following:

– The duration of the recovery.
– If RTO and RPO objectives were accomplished.
– Impromptu issues that hindered the recovery process.
– Can this recovery speed be improved?

  • Network Interruptions & Outages

The effect of a prolonged network outage can be likened to data loss. When the network goes down, IT professionals must react promptly. Checking how prepared you are for network interruptions is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to resolve the issue when it occurs quickly. Several network testing tools can help to simulate common disaster scenarios. For instance:

– Testing for sudden spikes in network traffic
– Mock tests that reproduce the effects of a significant network attack
– Network health testing that detects potential problems in specific parts of the network.

  • Blackout

Power outages are also among the significant disaster recovery scenarios to test. Blackouts are usually common during severe weather and other natural disasters, but they can happen for several reasons. The moment the recovery team notices any sign of power disruption, they should be quick to work instantly by:

– Checking whether the outage is localized to the building or widespread.
– Inform the utility providers about the outages and ask for possible resolution.
– Examine backup power sources to ensure they’re working properly.
– Prioritize services that rely solely on power.

Finally, each of these protocols should be appropriately reviewed and tested to ensure that recovery teams are prepared to act swiftly and know precisely what to do when there’s a blackout.

Sticking to these steps will provide an organization with a data recovery plan that guarantees recovery. Nevertheless, the organization must routinely test its strategy to ensure its efficiency.

text written by:

Łukasz Błocki, Professional Services Architect