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The DR Test Schedule

By Steve Jones,

It's hurricane season on the East Coast of the US right now, and after Hurricane Irene, I'm sure there are more than a few IT workers that are worried about their disaster recovery (DR) plans. Irene didn't cause much damage, but it was a reminder that there are situations which are completely out of our control, but could easily end up causing us problems with our infrastructure.

SQL Server gives us numerous ways to prepare for disasters with different technologies like database mirroring, log shipping and more. The new Always On features in Denali will give us even more options, and may be worth the cost of an upgrade. While DBAs seem to regularly practice backups and restores, recovering a full application often requires more than a SQL Server restore. This Friday, I wanted to ask how often you practice your recovery.

How often do you perform a full DR test for an application?

I think it's very unlikely that you would lose all your servers at once. It's possible, especially with an event like a hurricane, but it's very unlikely that you would have to recover all your systems at once. However that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be prepared to recover a complete system. If new hardware arrived, could you rebuild your Windows hosts, your SQL Server instance and application or web servers? I've found out the hard way this isn't as easy as it sounds.

I used to perform a complete test of our one critical system once a year. We set aside a day, sending the IT staff needed to a secondary location with media, backups, and unformatted hardware to perform a test. If we couldn't recovery the system in a day, we usually reviewed the issues and tried again in a month. Unfortunately, if we failed that test, we didn't usually get another chance that year. Not exactly great disaster recovery planning.

These days my part of the infrastructure, SQLServerCentral, lives on virtual servers. While I don't have the responsibility for these servers, we do have images of them, as well as regular backups, and I suspect we could recover them fairly quickly. Maybe I should ask for a test someday soon….

Steve Jones


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