The previous helpful hints in this series addressed the significance of including employees in your BC/DR plan as well as how to analyze the risks everyday disasters pose to your business. In this post, we want to stress the importance of testing your business continuity plan in a real-world scenario.
Your continuity plan is not simply a systematic recovery procedure on paper but a process that real people have to enact when faced with a business disruption. Businesses repeatedly hear that testing is without a doubt the best way to stay operational following a disaster; however, the majority of companies fail to take the time to do so. According to InformationWeek's 2013 survey, only 40 percent of organizations have tested their disaster recovery plans in the last 12 months.
If you fall into the category of businesses that have put testing on the back burner, we understand. Testing your plan in a real-world disaster scenario is no cakewalk. However, the reality is, you can't automatically assume a plan you haven't tested will work. Doing so might be dangerous, for both your staff and your business. The following are helpful hints on how to conduct a test in a real-world scenario, not a vacuum.
Don't Rely on Your Experienced Employees
Your best employees won't always be at your disposal after a disaster, so it's important to include new employees as well as your go-to staff members in the testing process. Run what-if scenarios that affect each department and let all employees know who to contact and what to do in the event of an interruption. Afterwards, gather feedback to identify gaps in your plan or staff members who need further clarification on business continuity procedures.
Take Your Staff Out of Their Element
Conducting tests in an air-conditioned room where your employees have full access to the company network does not paint an accurate picture of how chaotic a disaster will be. To help your staff understand the reality of a disaster, remove common comforts such as electricity and chairs and cut off access to external and internal communications. Also, ask participants to consider how they would manage their personal recovery.
After walking your team through the recovery process, challenge them to run through the test on their own. You'll quickly identify which steps in the plan are unclear or incomplete.
Involve Your Vendor
If you use a third-party BC/DR vendor, ask them to send a representative to help you conduct an annual test. During a live test, it's likely that your staff will have questions about the disaster recovery plan in general or the solutions specifically. It's ideal to have a representative on hand who is familiar with your recovery solutions to answer technical questions.
Check out our testing blogs for more tips on how to identify gaps in your plan.