Disaster Recovery Test Cases Every Business Should Consider
When it comes to disaster recovery, many organizations are woefully underprepared. After all, no one wants to ponder the potential of a cyberattack, natural disaster, theft or other unfortunate event wreaking havoc on their business – especially at smaller companies, where stakeholders are busy focusing on big-picture growth.
However, neglecting the potential for such a disaster is an inherently flawed approach. Instead, it is better to assume there will eventually be a disaster of some sort and to prepare accordingly.
In particular, disaster recovery testing is especially important to safeguard valuable data and keep operations running. Let’s take a quick look at the importance of testing, along with some examples of disaster recovery test cases and the assumptions and scope of such testing.
Recognize the Importance of Disaster Recovery Test Cases
Most corporate IT managers and business owners are at least somewhat aware of the importance of disaster recovery. However, a superficial knowledge of disaster recovery will not suffice. Rather, an in-depth understanding of disaster recovery with a particular emphasis on test cases is essential for comprehensive data protection. Such test cases help minimize the impact of a disaster recovery event and subsequent damage. The challenge lies in properly testing the disaster recovery plan to ensure it will prove effective when disaster inevitably strikes.
Assumptions and Scope
Disaster recovery testing should not commence until the test assumptions are defined. Before testing, the recovery team should identify the route to the best possible results, based on specific goals and desired outcomes. Test assumptions set the foundation upon which the disaster recovery testing will be constructed.
Examples of disaster recovery test assumptions include:
- The threats the organization is most likely to face
- The appropriate response mechanisms
- Testing scenarios
- Circumstances for testing
- The conditions met at the test’s end
The scope of the test is particularly important, as it details what will be covered during the test. It is up to the recovery team to determine the system functions and components to be tested and explain to all staff members which systems will be central to the actual testing. Exclusions and limitations of testing must also be defined so everyone understands exactly what will be tested.
Identify Success Criteria for the Test
The success criteria must be established beforehand to determine if the disaster recovery testing serves its intended purpose. The analysis of test results gauges whether expectations are met and the types of improvements to be made. In general, disaster recovery plan testing is deemed a success if the plan proves it is valid.
Even if the plan reveals weaknesses, it should still be considered a success. Once the strengths and flaws are highlighted, the recovery team has the information necessary to enhance the disaster recovery plan and conduct further testing. Above all, establishing success criteria for the disaster recovery test is necessary to assess performance and subsequently enhance the disaster response mechanisms as appropriate.
Disaster Recovery Test Scenarios
Disaster recovery testing is not a simple or quick endeavor. It is often best handled by experienced BC/DR specialists, in coordination with internal stakeholders, who can help determine how your systems will respond to emergencies of every sort. This is accomplished with disaster recovery testing scenarios.
Determining which disaster scenarios to test should be based on the company’s unique objectives and risks. However, in some cases, general disaster recovery scenarios that are somewhat universally applicable will suffice (i.e. data loss, which affects every organization).
In general, such testing scenarios describe the event in question, highlight its unique circumstances and gauge how it affects the company. The simulation of the event makes it that much easier for your business to be well-prepared for the subsequent data recovery process. More importantly, this testing pinpoints the optimal ways to respond to the disaster and proceed with a recovery in a thorough and timely manner.
The Different Types of Disaster Recovery Testing
The complexities of your system likely contain numerous intricate components that are interdependent on one another to a large degree. If even a single component fails, there is a chance the entire system will be disrupted. Disaster recovery testing must address such a hypothetical situation. Such scenarios cover a litany of operational problems that have the potential to arise as a result of specific disasters.
In short, anything that disrupts the operations of your organization qualifies as an emergency. Examples of such emergencies include but are not limited to the following:
- Ransomware attack
- Hardware failure
- An explosion due to a gas leak
- A fire
- Buggy software
- Interruptions in workflow as a result of human error
- Assembly line failure
The Loss of Important Staff Members
Employees are an integral component of all organizations. As such, their safety and response are integral to your business continuity planning and disaster recovery test cases.
Staff members are the first to handle emergencies. The manner in which your most trusted personnel react to emergencies has the potential to dictate the course of your business. Ideally, your business will have a recovery team that performs disaster recovery testing and monitoring in an ongoing manner. However, key staff members with important knowledge of your company’s unique disaster recovery procedures have the potential to fall ill, quit, pass away or be terminated. It is imperative that a sound plan is in place and regularly tested to ensure your business can handle a disaster in a truly graceful manner should such key employees no longer be employed or cannot make it to work.
Consider a situation where the majority of a business’s operations function in a virtual server space. More and more companies are transitioning to such a setup as time progresses. However, there is the potential for technological hurdles to arise that ultimately compromise operations. Tech-related disaster recovery scenarios must be simulated with regularity. This way, if there is a system failure, your business will be able to get its operations back on track in a timely manner. Examples of tech issues that should be simulated through testing include:
- Software glitches
- The inability to tap into backups
- Faulty network connectivity
- Server failure
Recognize the Potential for Natural Disasters
All sorts of natural disasters can upend your business unless you plan accordingly. From tornadoes to snowstorms, earthquakes, hurricanes and beyond, mother nature’s wrath has the potential to wreak havoc on your organization. Though you cannot predict a natural disaster, you can certainly plan for it. It is in your interest to identify all potential natural disasters that threaten your operations. Disaster recovery testing scenarios are designed with these threats in mind.
As an example, a flood that saturates your servers or makes it impossible for essential personnel to get to work could stifle your operations. Even an ice storm has the potential to damage your communications infrastructure. Each of these potential scenarios should be planned for and simulated with testing to guarantee your business can continue humming along in spite of the drama.
A Digital Attack
Digital attacks are becoming that much more frequent with each passing day. Cyber evildoers have the potential to hack servers, steal valuable data and sell it on the dark web. In ransomware attacks, hackers hold your data and systems hostage until you pay up. There is also the potential for a disgruntled employee to share highly sensitive data with competing organizations or those who will sell it for profit. This is precisely why disaster recovery testing must be conducted with the assumption that such a digital attack is an inevitability as opposed to an unlikely occurrence.
Power Outages and Network Outages
Consider a hypothetical situation in which the power goes out due to a storm. Your backup generator fails and your network gives way. The power company states it will take a couple days to get the power grid back up and running. This is the type of nightmare scenario that keeps business owners and managers awake at night, worrying about how their team would react and whether clients would be lost for good. However, if the proper disaster recovery testing is implemented, you and your team will not lose a wink of sleep worrying about a power outage or network outage.
Testing for this scenario simulates the power outage, ensuring your team is properly coordinated and communicative with important parties. This is your opportunity to simulate your response in terms of your ability to quickly notify the entirety of your team about the incident, pinpoint the employees and departments that are most affected and ensure your staffers know how to operate the backup power generator. This is also an opportunity to implement a mobile recovery location (or at least plan one) so operations can resume without an extensive delay.
Get the expertise you need
Our data specialists at Invenio IT are here to help your organization maintain continuity through any IT disaster with advanced data backup, business continuity and disaster recovery solutions for businesses of all types and sizes.
Reach out to us today to find out more about how we can help protect your valuable data and keep your operations humming along even if disaster strikes. Request a free demo or contact us by dialing (888) 244-1912 or emailing success@invenioIT.com.