When it comes to backup and recovery testing, far too many small and medium-size businesses are walking on thin ice.
According to a recent survey , 45 percent of the responding SMBs had suffered a data loss, which cost each organization nearly $9,000 in recovery fees, on average.
This same survey found that 42 percent of respondents believe their company’s backup and recovery plans fall short.
Having insufficient disaster-recovery plans in place is bad, but what’s worse is that most SMBs don’t ever bother to test the solutions they do have. According to the Symantec 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey , only 28 percent of respondents had actually tested their recovery plans.
So how can SMBs do better? As with many things in IT, automation can lead the way.
Mark Chidichimo, offer director of power solutions for data centers at Schneider Electric, explained in a recent post on the company’s blog  that automated testing of data centers trumps manual load-bank testing.
When testing power supplies with load banks, the test gives off predictable and consistent loads, which don’t mimic real-world scenarios, where outages cause unpredictable and dispersed spikes, according to Chidichimo.
While load-bank testing certainly serves a purpose, it shouldn’t be seen as a clean bill of health for your company’s disaster-recovery plan. “It doesn’t test the full system, and it doesn’t test other services in your facility,” Chidichimo says.
The best way to get an accurate assessment of your disaster recovery is to throw the complete data-center load onto the backup systems. But that requires time, human resources and manual recording, not to mention downtime for the organization.
More data-center administrators need to focus their energies on automated testing, which handles the reporting and analytics of a disaster-recovery test. It also requires fewer staff than standard testing, Chidichimo says.
By turning to automation, SMBs can test on a more consistent basis, intervene before disaster knocks the company offline and, if anything failed during the testing, clearly identify what went wrong.
With the evidence gathered from automated testing, IT can confidently reassure the business side that the backup systems in place will protect operations.
“You’ll know your transfer switches and associated infrastructure function properly, and you’ll be very certain you won’t be getting any midnight calls about a data center gone silent with a botched backup system,” he says.
Automated data-center testing is yet another instance where it’s best for people to just step aside and let the machines do the talking.