Disaster Recovery Mastery: Essential Checklist

Published on 19/01/2024
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In the intricate dance of cybersecurity, organisations face the constant challenge of preparing for the unexpected. What could then be better than simulating a technical disaster and testing the recovery systems that have been put in place. Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) exercises are strategic simulations designed to both test and improve an organisation’s ability to rebound from unforeseen disasters. Those exercises are not just a formality: they are a critical component of ensuring resilience, allowing businesses to uncover vulnerabilities, validate readiness, and enhance their overall response capability.

Hereunder we propose a checklist for preparing and executing such an exercise:

Checklist for a Successful Disaster Recovery Exercise

1. Identify Coordinators

   Designate individuals responsible for orchestrating the exercise. Coordinators should be well versed in the DRP and possess strong leadership skills to guide participants effectively.

2. Scope Definition

   Clearly define the scope of the exercise, outlining specific systems, processes, and departments to be tested. Establish boundaries to ensure a focused and targeted evaluation.

3. Disaster Recovery Plan Ready

   Ensure the DRP is updated and ready for execution. Clearly define actions for each critical asset and establish planned timings for recovery activities.

4. Point of No Return

   Define the “point of no return”: the threshold beyond which the exercise must proceed as if it was a real disaster. This helps simulate the urgency and critical decision-making required in actual crisis situation.

5. Rollback Plan

   Develop a rollback plan to address significant issues that may arise during the exercise. This plan provides a safety net, allowing the organisation to revert to a stable state if needed.

6. Actors and Contact Information   

Identify key personnel who will play active roles during the exercise as well as their contact info. Ensure that communication channels are established, and contact information is readily available. This should be the easiest part as contact information should already be in the DRP.

7. Evidence Gathering Plan

   Establish a plan for actors to systematically document their actions during the exercise. This may include screenshots, logs, or other evidence to facilitate a thorough post-exercise analysis and report.

8. Pre-Exercise Briefing Sessions

   Conduct informative sessions to explain the exercise format, objectives, and expected roles of participants. Address any queries and provide clarity on expectations to ensure a smooth execution.

9. Inform Your Business (Optional)

   Depending on the scenario and organisational culture, consider informing relevant business units about the upcoming exercise. This enhances realism and encourages cross-functional collaboration.

10. Functional/Business Testing

    Incorporate functional and business testing into the exercise to assess not only the technical aspects but also the impact on critical business functions. This holistic approach ensures a more comprehensive evaluation of the organisation’s resilience.

To Conclude

In conclusion, a well-executed Disaster Recovery Exercise is more than just a formality; it is a strategic investment in an organisation’s ability to navigate turbulent waters. By following this comprehensive checklist, businesses can fortify their resilience, refine their response strategies, and ultimately emerge stronger in the face of unforeseen disasters.

Written by Lab Resilience, HMP Brussels

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