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How to conduct a BDR test

Disasters happen — not all are natural and not all are severe, but any disaster at all can threaten the vitality of your department and the business as a whole. To ensure your data is safe, your Backup and Data Recovery (BDR) plan should be tested for unexpected glitches or snags.

A 2017 Forrester Survey showed that about sixty percent of surveyed organizations place BDR as a high priority, with live or simulated BDR tests held once a year or more. UniTrends reported in 2018 that because threats continue to evolve in unpredictable ways, data loss continues as one of the most likely reasons for a small business to suffer or close down completely, with 30% of interviewees losing data because of ransomware, natural disasters, or internal threats.

Regular testing will help you find weak areas to improve and can reveal unknown factors. There are a variety of ways that you can test, including incrementally. Follow these guidelines when developing your BDR test. That way you can sleep a little easier at night knowing your plan is in place and operational if and when disaster strikes.

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Establish a test objective and BDR plan

Every BDR test should name the technical specifications of backup equipment and software, where the resources are located, and who can access them. The test should also have a clear objective. In many cases, you will be testing just a portion or specific element of your backup and data recovery plan. It’s therefore important to name an objective for the test. Perhaps you are simulating a power outage, for example. Plan to test how a particular batch of files transfer to a remote location when the backup occurs. Write down the objective, name it, and consider drawing up a flowchart for your records. Your test should include an examination of remote data backup, recovery of remote data, security, and overall recovery effectiveness.

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Further reading: 5 things to include in a BDR plan

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Determine a testing method

Your objective will help you determine what kind of test to use. In some cases, you’ll conduct only a tabletop test. This is where you and staff sit together and run through the events on a whiteboard or paper. A more effective test, however, will simulate the test objective in real life and provide some concrete results. You can also run a parallel test, which requires creating a mirror or replica of the network and data. Once you simulate the “disaster” on the mirror, you’ll be able to observe an authentic response. Another test, called a cutaway test, shuts down the primary systems and allows the recovery system to go into action. The most effective test is a full-scale test, in which you would fully simulate a disaster. Even the employees and staff are unaware it’s happening. A full-scale test allows you to observe unexpected factors you might not have accounted for in the other types of testing.

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For more specifics: How to Test Data Backups

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Communicate with personnel

Unless you are running a tabletop test or a full-scale test designed to surprise, you’ll want to communicate to personnel that you are running a test that may affect them during the workday. You can also use the time to describe disaster scenarios to the personnel. This will help them prepare for the unexpected situations that threaten their hardware, software, and files. Describe real-life events such as the security war against Office 365, in which millions of users were potentially exposed to ransomware. Be sure to include any lone or remote workers who have access to the company intranet in the conversation. In addition to meeting or notifying personnel, include evacuation and first-aid strategies if your test is large scale. Explain that, in a true disaster, company operations could be moved to another location.

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Related: Top 2018 Backup Trends

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Collect and document results

After the testing, it’s important to gather your results and conduct an analysis. It may appear at first that all has gone well, but a closer look could reveal a potential problem. Or the opposite — a problem occurred and made you panic, but a closer look shows it’s easily solved. Your results and analysis are valuable information you may need in the future, so be sure to keep them safe. If you conducted a full-scale test, take the time to sit with personnel and brief them on the reasons.

Companies are backing up more and more data in clouds and remote locations each year making regular testing even more important. With regular testing and observation, your BDR plan will hold strong against costly disasters and surprises and all members of the work team will feel more secure, which in turn raises productivity for the organization. If you are looking for an even stronger plan or more sophisticated testing, consider hiring a managed IT solutions provider to come in and create a testing event for you. Our knowledge and experience at Visual Edge IT is an investment that will help you sleep better at night.