Five Essential Disaster Recovery Test Scenarios


Almost every business knows that having a disaster recovery (DR) plan is essential. However, it’s equally important to test your disaster recovery plans, and not every business follows through on that point. In this article, I’m going to detail five essential disaster recovery test scenarios that your organization should consider to guarantee that its disaster recovery plans are going to work when they’re needed the most.

There are a lot of reasons why businesses lag in disaster recovery testing. The testing process isn’t fun, it’s resource intensive, and it takes away resources from other ongoing business initiatives. Some notable companies like Google regularly perform full disaster recovery tests where they move their entire production workloads to their backup infrastructure, and then later move them back.

That’s obviously more than most businesses need to do. Fortunately, most businesses can just periodically test different components of their disaster recovery plans. Let’s take a look at the most essential test scenarios that all organizations should perform.

Disaster recovery test scenario #1: Communication with critical DR team members

One of the easiest yet most often ignored aspects of disaster recovery testing is the ability to communicate with the different team members that are part of your DR plan. The inability to contact your DR team members will quickly render any plan ineffective.

Here you need to be sure you have updated and current contact information including phone numbers, email, text, and Microsoft Teams/Slack/Zoom contact IDs.

Effective communication is a key aspect of disaster recovery
Effective communication is a key aspect of disaster recovery

Disaster recovery test scenario #2: Simulated hardware failure

Without a doubt, restoring failed hardware is the core of all disaster recovery plans. Hardware failures can result from a variety of different components, and the most common scenario is hard disk failure.

In this type of test, you need to be able to failover your programs and services from your primary computing platform to a backup computing platform – this can be an on-premises, colocation, or cloud-based platform, but hybrid cloud backups are also possible.

This backup platform can be another on-premise site that’s in a different location, or it can be in the cloud. In either case, the key test point is that you have an alternate computing platform to run your critical services.

Disaster recovery test scenario #3: Simulated OS and application failure

The next most important disaster recovery facet to test is OS and application failure. OS and application failure can also be caused by a wide range of events including software updates and configuration or programming changes that have gone wrong. While that’s less common than hardware failures, it’s a bit easier to test as you don’t need to use an alternate underlying hardware layer.

To test your ability to recover from an OS and application failure, you need to be able to restore your OS and applications using backups, snapshots, or a replication target. Part of this process needs to include verifying that your backup is being successfully completed and that the backup media is usable.

testing OS and application failure is important for disaster recovery
Testing OS and application failure is an important disaster recovery scenario

Disaster recovery test scenario #4: Network outage

Nowadays, network and Internet cloud connectivity are almost as important as your own on-premises resources. The majority of businesses use various types of cloud services for their critical applications, not to mention their business-to-business (B2B) connectivity needs.

A network outage can be just as disruptive as a hardware failure – especially in this post-pandemic era when so many users connect remotely. You should test to see that you have workable backup network connections and potentially perform tests that can mock network attacks. In addition, you should test and verify your network monitoring tools.

Disaster recovery test scenario #5: Data loss

Last but certainly not least, another critical scenario that you need to test for is data loss. Data loss can be caused by a number of different factors ranging from hardware or software failures to ransomware and other malware attacks.

In these tests, you should be able to restore both individual files as well as entire drive volumes. For further ransomware or malware protection, you should have a set of air-gapped backups that you can test and verify.

Air-gapped backups protect against ransomware that targets online backups and they are kept separate from your production network and they typically require different authentication credentials.


All of the DR tests you perform should be documented. You should be sure to record how long the recovery procedures took and whether you meet the expected Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) objectives or not. If any problems or issues are encountered then they should be noted and you should consider changes in your recovery procedures if that is appropriate.

Regular testing of these vital DR scenarios can ensure that you can restore your business’ critical IT services in the event of these common types of failures.

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