You’ve got this really well thought out DR plan.  It’s got every detail you and the DR team can think of, it covers every contingency, explains each step in gross detail, and – for all intents and purposes – is near perfect.  

But how do you know?

Even if you’ve read, re-read, and even re-re-read it to be certain it’s an exhaustive document, and have reviewed it with the rest of the DR team in a similar repeated fashion, all coming to the conclusion that the DR plan you have in place has what it takes to protect the organization, the question to be answered still is “how do you know?

The answer is, without running some form of recovery simulation, you don’t. Simulations are the only real method of DR testing to know whether what’s been planned will work or not. 

There are three reasons why you should consider a recovery simulation as the method used for your DR testing:

  1. Simulations Expose Real Recovery Problems – You’d obviously rather know about problems with your recovery plan well before you actually need to use them in production.  Security settings, application incompatibilities, etc. all can be the source of recovery failure, and running a recovery simulation will expose these issues. This allows you to document workarounds, configuration changes, and additional steps needed to successfully recover during a disaster.  
  2. Simulations Depict Actual Timeframes – Established recovery objectives are just like an airplane design that is supposed to go Mach 2; they’re just “really great ideas” until put to the test. That’s not to say that recovery objectives aren’t valuable – it’s just that their value is proven when tested.  Running a DR test simulation allows you to see how well your DR team performs, whether expectations put on your backup infrastructure and recovery environment are realistic, and just how long this thing is really going to take. 
  3. Simulations Identify Where Internal IT is Lacking – Your IT staff are the de facto experts on the systems and applications you run on a daily basis. In many cases, even expertise on the recovery of a given workload may be within the realm of some members of your IT staff.  But a recovery test simulating not just the restoring of a backup, but the actual recovery of some part of operations may show you where your IT team is not entirely ready and needs help from a partner that specializes in disaster recovery.

Simulations are the only means of DR testing that give you the feedback necessary to decide whether to celebrate or go back to the drawing board. By performing a recovery simulation, you’ll experience the good and bad of your DR plan, and be able to make needed changes before the plan is really needed.