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How to Test Your Backup and Disaster Recovery Solution (BDR)

Daniel Strain Dec 1, 2023 8:30:00 AM
Image of person working on a laptop that has 'recovery' and a progress bar lit up in green, displayed on the screen.

Facing a business 'datastrophe' (data catastrophe) is a prevalent risk faced by companies of all sizes in today's digital landscape. The rise of cyber-attacks, malware (malicious software) and phishing has meant that looking after your data has never been more critical. Not doing so could result in dire consequences for your business, your employees and, in some cases, your customers.

Luckily for you, we've drafted this blog that'll assist you in correctly testing and backing up your business' Backup and Disaster Recovery Solution (BDR).

Understanding BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions)

Firstly, let's take a dive into what a backup solution is and what it does exactly.

Backup Solution

In simple terms, a backup solution is a failsafe process set up to protect your business' data from potential theft, loss or damage. Most businesses probably use BDR technologies without realising that cloud-based storage services and external drives are used more frequently in day-to-day organisational operations. 

Disaster Recovery (DR) Solution

Contrastingly, a Disaster Recovery (DR) Solution is exactly what you'd expect: a system put in place to restore an organisation's data and critical systems during a disaster.

The biggest selling point of DR services is that they enable businesses to keep operating when unexpected disasters strike. Types of disasters could include natural disasters, cyberattacks or hardware failure. DR Solutions come under various types, including (but not restricted to) Data Centre, Network and Virtualised DR.

Why should you have BDRs? 

We very rarely get a smooth ride in life; there's a reason that the global insurance market was worth around five trillion U.S. dollars as of 2020. These days, businesses face the very real threat of malicious software (aka malware), issues arising from outdated hardware, and the increased likelihood of natural disasters with the ever-changing climate.

Introducing BDRs to your business can help you mitigate the risk of being impacted by unprecedented events.

We are living in a technologically-centred world. Without our various applications, devices and the systems that integrate them, the majority of businesses would cease to function. That's why businesses must recognise the risk of not having appropriate BDRs in place; otherwise, precious organisational time, data, and reputation could be lost.

Preparing for a BDR Test 

Preparation is at the heart of every successful business process. You know how the old saying goes: 'fail to prepare; prepare to fail'.

We've assembled a list of some prevalent types of BDR testing that will help your business back up and recover your data effectively.

  • Walkthrough Testing: This is perhaps the most renowned form of BDR testing. Walkthrough testing (aka Tabletop Testing) is a method that involves the inclusion of every stakeholder and consists of a comprehensive walkthrough of each step listed in your disaster recovery plan. Having a form of tabletop testing in place will mean that your business will be best placed to deal with disasters when they strike.
  • Simulation Testing: Similarly, simulation testing works in the same vein; it's a process which can be used to determine your organisation's response to a disaster or breach. It's a great way to see how your systems and employees react in real-time.
  • Checklist Testing: Who doesn't love a checklist? It's a failsafe go-to in numerous processes and is a method people use in every walk of life. Checklist testing involves going through all the necessary steps in a BDR process chronologically.

Performing a BDR Test 

Now, the time has come to put the theory into practice. Performing the test will help iron out any potential snags or complications that may arise during a non-simulated occurrence.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you on your way to performing a comprehensive BDR test:

  1. Familiarise yourself with BDRs: Before performing a test to see how well the system functions, it's important to get to grips with what precisely the Backup and Data Recovery system does. You must understand your existing backups within your organisation, where they are stored, how often they run, and how to access them in an emergency.
  2. Run tests to recover deleted/corrupted files: Simulation is vital in running a BDR test. You can start this process by deleting/modifying some files on your system and then taking the necessary steps to recover or restore them later. Simulating the test will help to distinguish whether the restored files have been recovered correctly and are in working order once returned to their original location.
  3. Check the compatibility of your business systems: During this step, you must ensure that your backup solution can integrate effectively with your organisational applications (databases, company servers, etc). When disaster strikes, you must be aware of any contingency planning involving migrating applications to a different system/environment without losing any essential functionality or data. Therefore, it's essential that you find out what applications will/won't be fit for purpose in a disastrous scenario.
  4. Try out your database recovery: Databases withhold key information that should be protected at all costs. That's why it's vitally important to check your data recovery procedure regularly. When carrying out this stage of testing, you should measure both the performance and efficiency of the backup solution by stacking them up against your BDR objectives and optimal recovery times.
  5. Test out the BDR's remote response: With the exponential rise in remote working and cloud-based storage solutions, the need to test your BDR remote response is massive. Simulation scenarios should be carried out where primary systems and locations cannot be accessed; therefore, they'd need to be recovered remotely. It's pivotal that checks are carried out around the bandwidth and security of the solution during this stage.
  6. Continue testing your BDR regularly: Last but by no means least, you should schedule and automate BDR tests continuously; this will mitigate the potential human error of forgetting to perform them. Results and reports generated should be consulted rigorously, and if required, BDR plans should be updated accordingly.

The Netitude Take on BDR: Shimon Sorga, Technical Manager

To provide some thought leadership on the BDR process, we've brought in Shimon Sorga, Technical Manager, to give the Netitude take on BDR solutions and best practices. 

"In the modern digital landscape, securing business data is paramount. Underestimate the importance of a robust Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution at your peril. 

This proactive approach mitigates the risk of data loss and ensures uninterrupted business operations during unforeseen events. However, the mere presence of a BDR solution is insufficient; regular testing is imperative to guarantee its usefulness and efficiency in times of crisis.

Testing a BDR solution serves several critical purposes. It verifies the integrity of backups, confirms the adherence of your systems to expected recovery time frames (Recovery Time Objective, or RTO), ensures recovery of the required data volume (Recovery Point Objective, or RPO), and identifies any gaps in the organisation's overall BDR strategy. 

The testing process involves defining objectives, selecting a testing method (such as full recovery, partial recovery, or simulation), documenting the procedure and results, conducting the test, and thoroughly evaluating the outcomes.

Documentation of the testing process is crucial for future reference and insights, especially in real disaster recovery scenarios. Post-test evaluation determines whether objectives were met, revealing any issues that must be addressed before a disaster occurs. 

When you come to review the test results, reasonable adjustments may be required in the organisation's BDR plan. Subsequently, decisions may have to be made regarding investments in superior BDR software or enhancing the data recovery process as a whole. 

Ultimately, consistent testing is indispensable for validating the effectiveness of a BDR solution and making essential improvements to fortify data protection. In the realm of data management, the emphasis lies not in the possibility of a disaster but in the inevitability of when it will strike.”

How Often Should You Schedule BDR Testing? 

The regularity of how often you conduct BDR testing depends entirely on several factors, such as the size and complexity of your organisation, the type of systems involved in your organisational operations, and the risk of data loss/corruption your company faces.

LinkedIn has given their thoughts on this matter, suggesting that 'as a general rule, you should test your plan at least once a year'. They also stated that the following situational changes should be considered in scheduling your BDR testing.

  • If significant changes or updates have been made to your data, systems, applications or infrastructure.
  • A data loss or corruption incident has occurred.
  • The introduction of a new form of BDR technology.
  • Or if any noteworthy changes have been made to the organisation's objectives, operations, or scope.

Final Thoughts 

Carrying out these BDR tests consistently will, over time, help you to continually enhance your organisation's responses to any potential 'datastophes' in the future. The benefits of doing so far outweigh the potential risks and pitfalls your business should face by neglecting all forms of data backups and recovery plans.

If you need clarification about your business's IT structure or help to understand the forms of Backup and Data Recovery systems that your organisation possesses - book a readiness audit with our friendly team of professionals today! (you won't regret it!)