Dusting off the Disaster Recovery Plan

This week, I started testing our department’s disaster recovery plan. The goal is to use the contents of our existing “disaster recovery box” that we keep off-site combined with our current backup tapes to restore some key parts of our infrastructure.

Success or failure will be measured by what road bumps we encounter and most importantly, our ability to work around them using only the resources in the box. If I have to go “outside the box” for some critical piece of software or some undocumented configuration detail it would be a black mark in our preparations that needs to be remedied.

Our testing scenario includes the domain, Exchange, the document imaging system, the financial system, the primary file server and the time card application. We are also going to provide remote access to restored applications so staff from other departments can test out the results and give us feedback on changes that could improve the end-user experience during this type of event. As an added bonus, we’ll be able to try out Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services.

In the last 6 months we started using VMWare ESX to consolidate some of our servers in production, but none of the machines needed for this scenario are virtual yet. I will be doing “classic” restores where the OS has to be installed before restoring our data from backup tapes. However, we are using VMWare to host several of the machines in the disaster lab, so I will be able to save time by cloning my first installation of Windows Server a few extra times before installing specific applications.

Depending on how this project goes, I’d like to see us take more advantage of virtualization within our disaster recovery planning and maybe start looking into backup solutions that are easier and faster than tape.

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