Disaster planRegular testing is the only way to ensure your disaster recovery arrangements will actually work.

Management 101 says that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”; disaster recovery 101 puts it somewhat differently, “If you don’t test it, then it’s not really a disaster recovery plan”.

To be frank, when a disaster happens, when the power outage drags into the second day, is no time to discover that some component of the recovery plan isn’t performing!

The only way to ensure that there are no nasty surprises is to document the recovery procedures and schedule regular testing of the entire business continuity plan, including the IT disaster recovery portion. Care has to be taken to ensure that the IT disaster recovery plan, usually the preserve of the IT department, is aligned with the overall business continuity plans that cover the business processes and people.

At a practical level, business continuity testing is often performed on a unit-by-unit basis, but it makes sense to test the effectiveness of the IT disaster recovery plans as a whole—in fact, IT testing can be run separately. Adopting the previous blog’s suggestion of using virtualisation to mirror the entire production environment, such a test could be performed without any disruption to the normal running of the company. In fact, switching between the production and disaster recovery environments would be a normal routine.

One additional point needs to be made. Disaster recovery needs always to cover loss of data, but there are instances in which recovering from loss of service might not make sense—for example if clients are impacted by the same power outage. Unless they have effective disaster recovery plans in place, they would not be able to trade with you, and so the best option might be to remain “down” until power is restored.

In conclusion, by focusing on the current power challenges facing South African businesses, our intention is not to be unduly alarmist. As already stated, we believe the threat of a national blackout is very small indeed. However, we do think that prudent risk mitigation has to take account of the possibility of power blackouts that are longer than the usual four hours, and that could affect entire regions. Such eventualities will need creative thinking, and we have tried to give some insight into the thought processes companies should be following.

As always, please feel free to contact ContinuitySA to discuss how to put a solid, practical business continuity plan in place.

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