By Paul Jablonski, IT Consultant, and Brian Oppermann, Senior Systems Engineer

You know the feeling when you’ve lost a document you’ve worked on for an hour or two? Now multiply that by all the documents and data your organization has produced since your last backup -  whether that’s hours, days, months or even years. If you lost all of that, would your business recover? Probably not, which is one reason disaster recovery planning and testing is so vital to the health of your company.

The obvious reason people avoid disaster recovery (DR) planning is that, with all the fires they’re facing on a daily basis, they don’t want to think about disasters that aren’t a clear and present danger. Even when they know it’s critical to the survival of their business, another chief reason some organizations avoid DR planning is that it can be expensive to implement and test a DR plan – and testing is important.  After all, a plan without testing is nothing more than hope.

But why is it so expensive to test a DR plan? In a normal DR test, you need a pre-defined site where you will be able to bring up and run your systems should your primary site fail. All your backups must be sent to that site – either electronically or physically. Then, your DR partner needs to re-install your operating system and other software in your test environment, build virtual machines, perform all the restores onto the least amount of hardware possible, sometimes renting processing power to get everything up and running. Then, it’s time to test connectivity with your users and the devices they employ to do their jobs. It’s a drawn-out process that can take a week or more of planning just to run a test, a major undertaking.  And that has made it expensive … until now.

A DR Case Study

As part of the managed services work we do for a chemical design and manufacturing client in the Midwest, we have been providing a managed backup service, and as an extension of that, we encouraged them to have us create a DR plan and to run a DR test to ensure the plan works to their exact specifications.

The client’s on-site data center includes a server with three virtual machines, and we’ve been backing up their data with a solution from Datto, an SRC Technologies data protection and recovery partner.

Datto backs up to a local device and holds the backup there for a specified period of time. The backups are then pushed offsite to a Datto data center and stored in the cloud for a pre-determined length of time – typically a year unless you have regulatory requirements for lengthier retentions. It’s all done electronically. There are no disks or tapes to ship or store. And we have the option to set it up as an automated process for the customer, relieving them of the burden of thinking about their backups. It’s also important to note that Datto encrypts your backups at rest, so no one can access that data without a decryption key. Even Datto doesn’t hold the key – only you do.

Since we’ve been using Datto for our chemical manufacturing client’s backups, it was a natural choice to also use Datto to build their test environment. With backup data already stored in Datto’s data center, DR testing has become f-a-s-t. Rather than the typical week-long preparation for a DR test, when using Datto for backups, we can prepare everything for a DR test in less than an hour. The systems test itself can then take a back seat to all the other planning that is so important to restoring a company to full functionality: identifying the key personnel involved in a recovery process, outlining a communication protocol, determining where the team will go to access their restored data, and documenting the plan so everyone is on the same page if a disaster strikes.

Datto’s cloud-based data protection and recovery solution allows us to plan a DR strategy that can have the business up and running literally within minutes following a disaster in the primary on-site data center. It gives the client the ability to access its data from any external site with an Internet connection, and it gives us an easy way to perform regular DR tests remotely.

In our client’s case, they went to a nearby college, reserved a room to use for their DR test, and connected to the Datto environment via the Internet. From start to finish, the entire test took under one hour to perform – a huge and very cost-effective difference from the week-long prep and two-day tests that are typical without this kind of solution in place. Datto has really streamlined the entire DR process and has made the technical aspects of DR testing easy – and it has removed the barriers that often cause decision-makers to put off all-important testing that could literally save the future of their business when a real disaster strikes.

Want to learn more? Check out our disaster recovery plan checklist to discover the six key elements of a good disaster recovery plan. Then, explore Datto’s backup and disaster recovery capabilities as well as SRC’s managed services offerings. If you’re considering an as-a-service data protection and recovery solution, read this blog that details four reasons as-a-service is one smart move. Then, contact us to discuss what SRC can do for you.