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The Importance of RTO and RPO During a Disaster & Why You Need It

November 30, 2021 | by Steve Ellis

The fastest way to destroy your reputation is significant downtime. While disasters can happen at any time, it’s how you handle them that matters. Prolonged downtime definitely impacts the organization’s overall productivity, revenue, and, more often than not, brand reputation.  

 

To mitigate risk and to ensure rapid uptime, it’s critical for businesses to formulate a robust Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) that includes Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). This can form the foundation of your business continuity plan. In this scenario, your DRP will be just like your office sprinkler system that prevents the spread of fire. 

 

Research suggests that ransomware attacks led to an average downtime of twenty-three days during the second quarter of 2021. This means that the consequences can be dire if you’re not adequately prepared. So, if you don’t already have a DRP in place with RPO and RTO, it’s best to get to work immediately. 

 

What is DRP?

 

Disaster Recovery Plan or DRP is a documented structured approach that describes the steps an organization must take to quickly resume work after an unplanned outage. As an essential part of a business continuity plan, it’s applied to different aspects of an organization that functions on the company’s IT infrastructure. The DRP also aims to mitigate data loss and recover system functionality to ensure high availability and performance after an incident. This is true even when operating at a minimal level.

 

When developing a DRP, you should consider using both RPO and RTO in your disaster recovery process. This is because RTO defines how long your company can survive without its usual IT infrastructure. RPO determines the amount of data you can afford to lose without severely damaging your business. 

 

Together, they both help enterprises engage in business impact analysis to identify and analyze potentially viable strategies to include in your DRP and business continuity plan. For example, you are determining which approach will enable the rapid resumption of a business process. 

 

What is RTO?

 

Recovery Time Objective or RTO is essentially a tool used to determine the timeframe and service level within a specific process that’s restored after a disaster. There are two ends to the RTO spectrum in an on-premises environment: either all the servers in the data center are down, or all the servers in the data center are up and running. The grey area in-between is called “unplanned downtime.” RTO protocols answer the question, “how much time does it take to recover after learning about the process disruption?”

 

The primary objective is to understand how long your business can survive without its usual servers before you can restore operations back to normal. For example, you must ascertain how long each business process can survive after the damage is discovered. This can vary significantly from minutes to hours or even days.

 

For example, if you determined that your RTO is twelve hours, then that means that your company can continue to operate without all its data or infrastructure for twelve hours. If you can’t restore your data and infrastructure back to normal within twelve hours, your organization will probably suffer irreversible damage.

 

What is RPO?

 

The second tool, Recovery Point Objective or RPO, computes the amount of time that it might take before the quantity of lost data exceeds the DRP’s maximum allowable tolerance or threshold. For example, your last available uncorrupted copy of data is from twenty-two hours ago, and the RPO for the business is twenty-four hours. This means that you’ll still be within the parameters of your business continuity and DRP. 

 

RPO cements the critical need for data recovery and backup solutions and replication tools. It will also help you figure out how often you should backup the whole system to ensure business continuity. When you have a robust RPO, you can be confident in guaranteeing uninterrupted service whenever disaster strikes.

 

To formulate your RPO, first ask yourself, “how current does your enterprise data need to be for the organization to function properly?” The answer to the question depends on the business, industry vertical, and so on. For example, financial institutions usually demand data updated within the last hour. On the other hand, retailers can work with data that was last updated over the previous night. However, regardless of the industry, business-critical applications must be monitored and backed up in real-time.

 

Most often, enterprise data is backed up daily at a predefined time, usually in the middle of the night, like one o’clock in the morning. However, if disaster strikes at six o’clock in the morning, that means five hours’ worth of data was affected by the disaster. 

 

In this case, if you established your business’ RPO to be twelve hours, then your business is in good health. However, if you determined your RPO to be three hours, then your organization maybe be in danger of being crippled by major damage. 

 

Some factors that will impact your RPO metrics are as follows:

 

  • Data storage options, including physical files versus cloud storage, will have an impact on the speed of recovery
  • The maximum tolerable data loss for each department in the recovery process
  • Industry-specific data protection and compliance protocols for businesses dealing with business-critical data (for example, financial transactions or health records)
  • Service Level Agreements (SLAs), especially with cloud services providers
  • Compliance protocols including provisions for disaster recovery, data loss, and data availability
  • The overall cost of lost data and lost business opportunities
  • The cost of implementing DRP (including RTO and RPO)

 

It’s important to note that there may be gaps between your disaster recovery strategy and what actually happens during a disaster. As such, it’s important to engage in disaster rehearsals to expose potential gaps in the plan.

 

RTO and RPO: The Differences

 

Although the acronyms sound similar, there are some significant differences. At its most basic, RPO refers to the frequency of backups. On the other hand, RTO dictates how long you have to get workloads back up and running after a disaster. 

 

Like all plans, DRP has a set of goals. RPO aims to backup data within a predefined time limit. This approach is simple as you can automate the process through a data backup solution. The backup plan will also continue to function during the disaster and after as it doesn’t directly impact it.

 

RTO aims to provide enough time for organizations to recover from a disaster before reaching the maximum number of hours allotted by the plan. As such, the goal of RTO is more abstract and doesn’t support automation. In this scenario, you can only restore all IT functions manually.

 

Figuring out the restoration time between RPO and RTO varies. This is because the RPO restoration period of time depends solely on the data backup and restoration solution.

 

As RTO covers business operations, all the different variables of the business come into play. The organization’s IT resources can also limit your RTO restoration time. For example, if your IT team can restore data within a minimum of three hours, then your RTO must be at least three hours.

 

As you only deal with data usage in RPO, you can implement it without any problems. You just have to set up and automate your data backup and recovery system. But as mentioned earlier, executing your RTO will be far more challenging as it covers the entirety of your business operation, including your IT team.

 

As a result, you’ll have to balance both and determine which types of data and which systems demand further investment. This is because not all data is equally critical to your operations, and this can help reduce your overall downtime.

 

Why Use RTO and RPO?

 

It’s always best to create an effective disaster recovery strategy that includes both RTO and RPO. This is because both RPO and RTO help companies determine their business limitations before disaster strikes. 

 

This approach will help take the guesswork out of it, and you’ll have a good idea about how the business will endure a security event. RTO and RPO will also help enterprises determine precisely how much data and time are required for a company to resume operations after a disaster. 

 

However, there’s no turn-key solution here. As every business is different, their DRP will also be different. However, going ahead with a disaster recovery solution without RPO and RTO will prove inefficient during an active incident.

 

 

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Categories: Security, Data, databackup

Steve Ellis

About Steve Ellis

Snow hater, technology lover, information sharer, camper, biker, and hiker. Steve Ellis has been with Office1 since 1995. He’s filled many positions from a brand new copier tech to his current position serving as the VP of Professional Services. He has a passion for learning and sharing the knowledge that might make someone’s life easier. He holds several certifications including MCSA and MCITP. He is currently working on his CompTIA CySA+. Steve has been in the copier industry for more than 25 years and has been interested in tech since 2000.

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