How often should I test my disaster recovery plan?
The short answer to how often an organization should perform a disaster recovery test is "it depends." Most people don't want to hear that, but it's true. It really depends on how intrusive the disaster recovery test is. If you're using VMware's Site Recovery Manager, you can test recovery plans with little impact to production systems. So, testing often, say, every 30 days, is easy. Testing more frequently than 30 days is excessive and may be draining your personnel resources. On high visibility systems, you should opt for over-night tests every 60 to 90 days. Less may be too disruptive. All too often, organizations on a less frequent schedule have a tendency to delay testing further.
In general, you should conduct a disaster recovery test soon after any system changes, to make sure they are covered in your DR runbook. One true test is to actually run in "disaster mode" for a period of time. For instance, failover to your recovery site and let the systems run there for a week or month and then fail them back. This will test your resiliency and ability to run in a true disaster. Not everyone will have this luxury, though. Beyond simple validation, set aside some time to really test your systems while you're testing your DR plan.
DR plans should also include testing of power supply equipment (UPS, generators, etc.), not just your applications and failover. I've been in situations where both have failed.
In summary, my real answer to how often is anywhere from 30 to 90 days. As long as you’re regularly testing, you'll be in a good position if you find yourself in a true disaster.
About the author
Luke Huckaba is a virtualization engineer at Rackspace Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. He has been immersed in technology for over 15 years, focusing on virtualization for the last half. He holds several certifications, including VMware Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Security, Security+ and A+. Huckaba writes about disaster recovery, PowerShell scripting, VMware automation and other topics on his personal blog.
This was first published in April 2013