When it comes to a disaster recovery strategy, it is easy to focus on the ‘disaster’ side of provisioning. Identifying, prioritising and copying mission-critical data is straightforward, albeit time-consuming.
But ensuring there is always a copy of your data available is just one part of the story. The second aspect is, as the name implies, recovery. That is, make sure your data can be recovered from backup according to your strategic goals and SLAs.
The final sign-off for any DR strategy will involve a recovery test run. It will probably include at least one follow-up test every year too.
But digital transformation is driving rapid change – there is a very real chance that your IT infrastructure is evolving faster than your DR plans. This is why recovery testing must be a regular aspect of your maintenance routines.
What about the disruption?
It is true that a full DR test can be immensely disruptive and may involve some downtime of mission-critical systems. Then there is the number of resources required – personnel need to be taken away from other tasks for the testing period, potentially causing their other responsibilities to suffer. A full-scale DR test can be expensive.
This is why most businesses only perform DR exercises when required for an audit or similar. However, delaying testing increases the risk of something going wrong during a real disaster because the plan is out of date. The C-suite needs to make a value call – is the cost of testing DR provisions to ensure they work greater or lesser than the losses incurred by an actual disaster and the shortcomings of the DR plan?
Solving the problem with regular, smaller tests
A full DR test is always the best way to ensure your plans will actually work when needed. But there is an alternative that will allow you to optimise your provisions incrementally – partial DR testing.
Under this scenario, you select a sub-section of your infrastructure for disaster recovery testing. This could be a branch office, a business unit or a single application – every aspect of your system needs to be tested and refined, so why not focus on a single aspect first?
It’s also worth remembering that your choice of backup technology will have a significant effect on your recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). Tape may be an effective medium for point-in-time backups, but what about the data that is created between backups? And the time it takes to recover an entire system from tape?
Choosing a solution like Zerto that offers continuous data protection (CDP) can shorten RPO to mere seconds for instance. This not only increases your level of protection but will also minimise the impact of your testing on operations. This means that you should be able to conduct DR testing more regularly, refining your plans and provisions as you go.
To learn more about DR testing and Zerto CDP, please give us a call