Ultimate List of Disaster Recovery Testing Scenarios

One of the main reasons that disaster recovery plans fail is lack of testing. Still, creating a testing exercise can seem like an overwhelming task. However, they are absolutely critical to ensuring that your business will be able to survive a disaster. Still, reports show that only 40% of organizations have actually tested their disaster recovery plans. In this blog post, we wanted to help you understand how to create a testing exercise, and provide you with plenty of examples to help get you started.

Ultimate_List_of_Disaster_recovery_Testing_ScenariosNow, we will spend much more time walking you through how to plan a testing exercise in another blog post. But, just as a basic overview, your first planning step should be to get together a disaster design team to come up with the scenario. Have them be as creative and detailed as possible so that nothing is left up to chance.

So, now to the ultimate list of disaster recovery scenarios. Our team spent a good amount of time putting together all sorts of disaster recovery test scenarios. These examples range in severity and size. Some could be just as easy as a verbal communication between a team, asking how they would handle a specific scenario. Other items on the list would be excellent candidates for full-scale live tests.

The Ultimate List of Disaster Recovery Test Scenarios

Loss of Key Staff Scenarios

Plane Crash with Critical Personnel on board

All upper management are on their way back from a huge conference when their plane suddenly disappears. How will things like finances, contracts, client operations, and support be handled?

Major Transit Incident Prevents Staff from Getting to the Office

A major traffic accident has completely shut down a crucial intersection involving multiple major roads in the middle of morning rush hour. Much of your staff was already on the way to work, and are now in stand-still in their cars. It takes 3-4 hours before law enforcement can divert traffic to alternate routes and get cars moving at all.

Major Flu Epidemic Strikes

Absenteeism in your organization has risen to 25%, with several employees reporting that they have to stay home with children who have been dismissed from school. Many of these crucial staff members are not able to work remotely or in-office.

Employees go on Strike

With a large percentage of employees refusing to work until their demands are met, remaining employees are forced to take on increased responsibilities to ensure that business can continue to operate.

Loss of Key Technical Infrastructure Scenarios

Building Fire at Office

There is a fire at your office building! All staff are escorted from the building safely, though firefighters are struggling to contain the blaze. Staff are unable to access their client information to tell them about the ordeal. Many computers and servers are ruined in the fire, along with many documents and files containing important data.

Trucker Plows Through Power Cable Supporting the Office Building

As soon as the accident happens, the whole building shakes. Many wall decorations and hanging light fixtures fall, causing a few employees to be injured. All lights go out and only one of the emergency backup lights stays on.

An Employee at a Branch Office Smells a “gas-like smell” Coming from the Locked Server Room 

Due to security concerns, only one person has the ability to access the room: the IT manager. As luck would have it, the IT manager is on vacation and a spare key is not available.

All Office Hardware, Computers and Telephony Have Been Stolen Overnight

A disgruntled former employee and several of their friends access the building using a key card that was not deactivated. While most of the team of bandits are caught several days later, they still managed to sell most of the equipment that houses your data and information.

All Fans and Cooling Systems to the Data Center Have Lost Power

All your systems are down and backup power cannot be turned on.

Disgruntled Employee Takes Anger out on Key Server

An angry IT guy with administrator privileges has turned off monitoring for his actions and destroyed a key system prior to being terminated. Due to his use of stealth, back door tactics, current IT team members cannot properly ascertain how the damage was done or where it was accomplished.

Loss or Corruption of Critical Application

One of the main applications that is needed to run your organization is experiencing several difficulties. You ask around and learn that no one in your organization can get it to do what they need in order to meet approaching deadlines and satisfy client requirements. You contact the manufacturer of the application who informs you that a critical flaw has been discovered, and that it will be several days before someone can come on site to fix all of the issues.

Loss or Corruption of Key Data Scenarios

Faulty Backup Tapes

One of your key systems crashes, and in the forced reboot you lose a significant amount of progress on your work. You attempt to call your IT support to access your data backup, only to be told that the backup files have been corrupted and cannot be used.

Don’t discount this one, Pixar almost lost Toy Story 2 to this disaster. There is a really interesting video on YouTube about it.

HR’s Office is Completely Cleaned out by Burglars in the Middle of the Night

The thieves take paper and digital files that contain everyone’s personal information. This includes social security numbers, copies of passports and drivers licenses, and direct deposit information for all current and previous employees and contractors.

Your Network has been Hacked

Cyber criminals have been able to compromise one or more of your cyber assets and have taken over their control. They are now reaching out to suppliers and clients on your behalf with personal information about contracts and sensitive data.

Your Servers have been Hacked

All client data has been stolen by cyber criminals and dumped online, displaying confidential information that was protected by your contracts. In the midst of correcting the technical problem and helping clients to address their concerns, the media gets wind of the problem. TV stations begin calling your PR rep and asking for a statement about what your company could have done and will do to fix this problem.

Rogue File Sharing Instances have Lead to a Data Breach

You find out that employees who have been sharing data on various consumer-grade file sharing platforms have fallen victim to a ploy. Cyber criminals are able to access all files from the last 5 minutes that were shared on the system, without the company’s security policies being able to accurately track the files.

Environmental Scenarios

Your Town is hit by a Hurricane over the Weekend

Power is out for several days. Department of Health on Monday states that any building without running water cannot open for business. Clients are calling and your voicemail is full, yet employees cannot get to work.

Corporate Headquarters are Destroyed in Freak Meteor Shower

The entire building that houses your offices is destroyed overnight. Your current business continuity plan names a secondary work location that is not meant to be long-term, and your company needs a more long term solution. While work from home policies are in place, they don’t support many of the needs such as infrastructure housing, meeting hosting, or equipment storage, that need to be immediately addressed.

An Industrial Plant Next to your Data Center Experiences an Incident

In attempts to keep the area from becoming worse, all power to the area has been terminated. Hazmat is not letting anyone near the area so back-up options are not able to be accessed.

City-wide Riots and Civil Unrest have Broken out in the Blocks Surrounding the Office

This has prevented employees from being able to get to work as most of the cities transportation services have been disbanded until everything can return to a safe level. In addition, your corporate headquarters are in an area that is where much of the protesting is occurring, and rioters loot and vandalize your office. Many of your systems are destroyed and paper records are set on fire.

A Wildfire is Spreading a Few Miles Away From the Office Building

City and emergency officials have decided it is no longer safe. Employees have half an hour to grab everything critical and evacuate.

A Snowstorm From out of Nowhere hits the Area Around the Office During the Work Day

The government is not able to get the roads cleared and traffic comes to a standstill, leaving many employees stranded at the office overnight.

A Tornado Hits the Office

Key executives are away from the office. The building is damaged, and employees are injured. Cars have been destroyed or completely misplaced. Emergency personnel are overwhelmed.

Don’t be afraid of keeping these scenarios light hearted. Keeping employees engaged and freeing up their minds to think creatively about how to solve different problems will help them be more productive in the event of an actual emergency.

Do you have any other scenarios to add to our list? Let us know!


By | 2017-03-24T13:47:46-04:00 September 3rd, 2015|IT Infrastructure, Professional Services, Small Business IT Tips|

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