Enter the game master….disaster recovery tabletops!

I snagged this line from the most excellent Lesley Carhart the other day, and it’s been resonating every since.

“You put your important stuff in a fire safe, have fire drills, maintain fire insurance, and install smoke detectors even though your building doesn’t burn down every year.”

When’s the last time you got out your business continuity/disaster recovery plan, dusted it off, and actually READ it? You have one, so you can check that compliance box…but is it a living document?

It should be.

All of the box checking in the world isn’t going to help you if Step #2 of the plan says to notify Fred in Operations…and Fred retired in 2011. Step #3 is to contact Jason in Physical Security to discuss placement of security resources…and Jason has changed his cell phone number three times since your document was written.

I’ve also seen a disaster recovery plan, fairly recently, that discussed the retrieval and handling of some backup….floppy disks. That’s current and up-do-date?

Now, I am an active tabletop gamer. Once a week I get together with like-minded people to roll the dice and play various board games.

For checking the validity of your disaster recovery plan there is an excellent analog to the tabletop gaming world:

Tabletop DR exercises!

Get BACK here….I see you in the third row, trying to sneak out. I’ll admit, I LOVE doing tabletops. Hello? I get to play game master, throw in all kinds of random real life events, and help people in the process – that’s the trifecta of awesome, right there. If it’s a really good day, I get to use dice, as well!

The bare minimum requirements for an effective tabletop:

  • A copy of  your most recent DR/BC plan
  • Your staff – preferably cooperative. Buy ’em a pizza or three, will you? The good kind. Not the cheap ones.
  • An observer. This person’s job is to review your plan in advance, and observe the tabletop exercise while taking notes. They will note WHAT happens, and what actions your team takes during the exercise. This role is silent, but detail oriented.
  • And the game master. The game master will present the scenario to the team. They will interact with the team during the exercise, and will also be the one who generates the random events that may throw the plan off track. It’s always shocking to me how many people would rather be the observer….to me, game master is where the fun is.

Your scenario, and the random event happenings, should fit your business. I tend to collect these for fun….and class them accordingly. A random happening where all credit card processing is doubling due to an error in the point of sale process is perfect for a retail establishment…but an attorney’s office is going to look at me like I have three heads.

Once the exercise is over, the game master and observer should go over all notes, and generate a report. What did the team do well, what fell off track, what updates does the plan need, and what is missing from the plan entirely?

Get the team together again. Buy ’em donuts – again, the good ones. Good coffee. Or lunch. Never underestimate the power of decent food on technical resources.

Try to start on a high note, and end on a high note. Make plans, as you review – what are the action items, and who owns them? When and how will the updates be done? When will you reconvene to review the updates and make sure they’re clear and correct?

Do this, do it regularly, and do NOT punish for the outcome. It’s an exercise in improvement, always…not something that your staff should dread.

Have a great DR exercise story? Have a REALLY great random event for my collection? I’d love to hear it – reach out. I’m on Twitter @TheTokenFemale, or lwallace@microsolved.com