Does your disaster recovery work?

Household safety people are always reminding us to test our smoke detectors every now and then, but do we do it? Usually not. We just let them sit quietly on the ceiling while we think about other more important things, until one day, it starts to chirp—usually at about 3 o’clock in the morning—to tell us that the battery is wearing out. We stumble out of bed, knock it off the ceiling and pull out the offending battery, telling ourselves that we’ll put in a new one tomorrow. We’ll actually put it in after a couple weeks.

Backup solutions are a little like those smoke detectors. They work quietly in the background, backing up all of our data. But the only difference is, they don’t chirp at us in the middle of the night to tell us if something’s wrong.

Like the smoke detector, they are supposed to kick into action only when a disaster strikes. In the world of backup, the disaster recovery part of the mix is like the alarm that goes off in case of fire. We hope it never gets put to use, but we need to know that it’s there just in case. And beyond knowing that it’s there, we need to know that it’s actually working.

The backup itself is done every day, or even on a continuous basis, and we’ll get a report—but the disaster recovery component? Since it’s never really put to the test, how do we know that the recovery mechanism is going to do what it needs to do?

A “best practice” of backup and disaster recovery is to go beyond knowing that the backup is backing up, and the replicated data is there. Never mind that it exists, can you actually bring it back to life? You need to know that the replicated data is restorable and recoverable. This is essential from two perspectives: first, for compliance purposes, which may require periodic testing and assurance, and second, just for your own peace of mind in knowing that you’re covered. Fortunately, recovery testing doesn’t have to be a manual process, if you use a backup solution that includes automatic disaster recovery testing as a basic feature.

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