What can be done to make disaster recovery exercises more productive?


It's about that time of the year where we conduct our disaster recovery exercise. It seems a particularly appropriate time in light of the harsh weather that just passed through Alabama and the deep south. To be honest though, in the past I have felt that we were just running through the basics during exercises, and I'm not confident that we really elevated our preparedness to where it should be. What things can be done to make sure DR exercises are productive?

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One thing that can be helpful is to have a scenario that provides a framework for the exercises.  Real world scenarios seem to help participants relate more directly to the exercises.  For instance, a situation like that caused by Hurricane Irene caused long term loss of power and brought flooding danger to many areas.  It makes it clear to people why they are undertaking the exercise when presented in this manner.  Also, when everyone understands what they are trying to accomplish, it makes it easier to verify the success (or problem areas) of the exercise.  Make objectives clear, and they are more likely to be met.  And when objectives aren't met, evaluate why, and correct the issue. 

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Perhaps one idea might be to review case studies of previous disasters and how companies in those areas handled them. Taking a look at worst case scenarios such as Katrina, etc. might give you some good ideas on how to improve your own disaster planning.

Maybe focusing on one case study in depth this year might yield some benefits for you and your company? I like the idea of learning from the past and then utilizing that knowledge for future situational needs.

It might also be a good idea to have one or two people on your team do the research and then present the case study to the rest of your team.

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