How to Test a Disaster Recovery Plan

Testing a disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a crucial step to recover data and restore operations. Disaster recovery plans that are tested for different possible scenarios can be an organization’s strongest line of defense against irrecoverable loss to the company. Testing helps ensure that there’s a strong contingency plan to recover data and restore the continuity of business in disastrous events such as cyberattacks. 

So how do we test disaster recovery plans? Testing needs to be done comprehensively and frequently to ensure that the DRP is kept up to date. This is a systematic well-defined process that involves understanding the scenario, available resources, and the mission of the DRP. For a seamless and secure disaster recovery plan, it’s advisable to seek help from a trusted IT solutions company.

Goals of Disaster Recovery Testing

One of the primary aims of disaster recovery testing is to determine whether or not a disaster recovery plan will operate and meet an organization’s established recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) requirements. Enterprises can also use recovery testing to get feedback on their disaster recovery plans so they can make changes if any unforeseen problems develop in the event of unforeseen problems.

Because IT systems are rarely static, it must be thoroughly tested every time a company adds a new component or upgrades the system. Since an organization’s original disaster recovery plan was formed, storage systems and servers may have been added or upgraded, new applications deployed, and existing applications updated.

The cloud is becoming more important in an organization’s IT architecture as more companies migrate to it. A disaster recovery test ensures that a disaster recovery strategy remains current in an ever-changing IT world.

Preliminary Steps in Disaster Recovery Testing

The exact specifics of the disaster recovery testing process may vary depending on the requirements of the business, but there are certain fundamental steps that are essential for creating proper test criteria. These have to be taken before getting started with the actual testing process itself. 

Step 1: Conduct a comprehensive audit of available IT resources and infrastructure

Businesses must first determine what “normal” is before they can restart business continuity and normalcy following a tragedy. This entails locating all of the various assets that make up the corporate network infrastructure. A corporation can begin the process of consolidation by building an inventory of all IT resources on the network and identifying what they include. This will make the backup and recovery process easier and more efficient in the future.

Step 2: Identify the assets that are critical for the DRP mission

Businesses may discover that a significant amount of data is redundant or not required to keep the system working during the asset audit. Transferring all of the network’s superfluous data to a backup server could take a long time. Sorting superfluous data can help minimize the size of a backup file, which saves both space and money.

Step 3: Designate specific roles and responsibilities to each member of the DRP development team

Every person in a company should play a part in a disaster recovery strategy that works. While automated disaster recovery testing is vital in a disaster recovery plan, it simply evaluates the technical aspects. People inside an organization will need to know what to do in the event of a true disaster in order to quickly restore uptime. When everyone knows what to do in the event of a crisis, your disaster recovery plan will be more effective than if no one knows what to do.

Step 4: Understand your goals and targets for data recovery

Set your RTOs and RPOs according to how quickly your company needs to recover. This may entail determining which data needs to be retrieved right away vs which data is less critical. Data that doesn’t need to be accessed right away could be given a longer recovery period and fewer backups. Important data, such as financials and compliance, might be given higher RPOs and RTOs, or even a backup server to take over in the event of a disaster.

Step 5: Use a cloud-based data storage service

Cyber attacks and ransomware attacks, for example, could wipe out an organization’s principal data storage solution, resulting in the data’s permanent loss. Every few days, cloud-based solutions can automatically download and replicate data (or even every few hours). Unlike traditional manual backup techniques that required users to copy data to a disc or USB drive, cloud-based backups may be performed at any time and without the need for physical media.

Reviewing a Disaster Recovery Plan

Once the requirements, mission criteria, test conditions, and strategies have been decided upon, a complete disaster recovery plan has to be reviewed and evaluated by the team. This step helps identify potential data inconsistencies or missing information. This is achieved through 2 phases. 

The first is a tabletop exercise where stakeholders work through all of the components of the disaster recovery plan step by step, much like they would during a first rehearsal. This allows you to see if everyone knows what to do in an emergency and if there are any contradictions, missing information, or errors.

Next, simulation testing is performed. Simulating disaster scenarios is an effective technique to check if disaster recovery procedures and resources, such as backup systems and recovery sites, are working. 


A simulation entails executing a range of disaster scenarios to assess if the teams participating in the disaster recovery process can swiftly and successfully restart technologies and business operations. This approach can establish whether there are enough employees to carry out the DR plan properly.

Disaster Recovery Testing Checklist

  • Identify and mention the testing objectives, goals, and strategies that will be used in the testing process
  • Define the purpose of the test and the specifics that will be evaluated
  • Form a testing team that includes experts from many domains
  • Plan a schedule and timeline for the testing process
  • Prepare to revise your disaster recovery plan and disaster recovery testing scripts by carefully documenting them
  • Mention the required technology, training, and procedures for the test
  • Ascertain that the test environment is ready and will not interfere with production systems or other activities
  • Do a rehearsal exercise to identify and resolve any potential issues before the disaster recovery test goes live
  • Stop, review, and resolve issues as and when they appear
  • Record the start time, end time, issues, results, and what worked in a report
  • Update the DRP based on the results of the test

View our disaster recovery plan template here

Get Support on Your Disaster Recovery Plan from Abacus

Testing of a DRP is essential to ensure that the organization doesn’t suffer when disasters take place. These disasters could be in the form of power outages, network failures, data theft, natural calamities or cyberattacks. By testing out the disaster recovery plan, it’s easier to understand why a particular strategy works or why it fails, and that knowledge is crucial to constantly improve the data security of an organization. 

While large firms may have the capacity to conduct a disaster recovery test on their own, you may require additional assistance if you’re a smaller business. Abacus Managed IT Services can assist you in assessing your IT risks, patching up your security, and disaster planning no matter your company size. For further information, you can contact us by phone or email.


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The Abacus Blog Team
At Abacus IT, our blog is authored by a team of IT experts with a wealth of experience in various facets of technology. Our primary blog author is a seasoned IT professional with over 20 years of experience in the industry. With a deep understanding of cybersecurity, cloud solutions, network infrastructure, and IT management, our author provides valuable insights and actionable tips to help you optimize your IT operations.

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