By Brandon Tanner, senior manager for Rentsys Recovery Services, Inc.
One of the most important things your business can do is test its business continuity program. You might assume that because you have a written plan your business is prepared for a disaster or business interruption, but how do you really know your plan works until you test it? Below are four reasons testing is essential.
It Identifies Interdependencies
Performing business continuity tests helps you identify interdependencies and gaps within your system databases and technology. For example, a customer we tested with was able to recover their main application and network environment, but they discovered there was a particular database the application made a call to for a subroutine. That specific database was housed in a separate environment and wasn’t being backed up. As a result, the entire system application that relied on that database wouldn’t have been able to operate during a real-world recovery scenario, which would have prevented an entire business unit from functioning. By testing, they were able to identify that interdependency ahead of time.
It Reveals Differences Between Production and Recovered Environments
Differences between your current production environment and recovered environment could cripple your employees' productivity. People are used to using an application a certain way and for a specific purpose on a day-to-day basis. If an application isn't configured to allow users to perform the desired functions, the application will become essentially useless to your employees. Testing will reveal any configuration changes you need to make.
It Validates Compliance Requirements
Many businesses are required to have certain security protocols in place for compliance purposes. They also need to meet specific recovery time objectives (RTOs) driven by business objectives, regulatory requirements or both. Unfortunately, sometimes when businesses are in the middle of an event, they tend to try to recover as quickly as they can, which can open up security issues. With testing, you can assess your ability to recover within your RTOs while validating that the required security controls are in place.
It Provides an Opportunity for Creating Time-Saving Documentation
It’s critical for people going through an exercise to document work issues in a recovery scenario. That way, if other people are involved in a recovery situation down the road, they have documentation that can expedite recovery, rather than wasting time working out logistics that were resolved during a previous test.
If you work with a business continuity services provider, that third party can leverage documentation on the customer's environment to speed up the recovery. After a disaster strikes, people are typically dealing with the effects of the event and making sure their families are taken care of, so key personnel are not always available to initiate the business’s recovery.
When we work with our customers during these types of events, we’re able to rely on the documentation we have to get the customer’s environment set up by the time the employees arrive on-site. In our experience, having detailed documentation can cut about six to 12 hours off the recovery process.
By proactively identifying weaknesses in your business continuity plan, you can save yourself a lot of headaches down the road.