Disasters are bound to happen in any adventure, including the adventure of managing a business. As the quote by Benjamin Franklin goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." In the same way, to not fail in the event of a disaster, it is necessary to plan. According to this 2020 Protection Report, one in four retailers lose critical business data permanently. Within the same report, four out of five businesses claim that losing data would greatly affect their business for the worse. Knowing that data loss is a reality that may occur, how can you best prepare your business for when that time comes? Fortunately, there are tools to help create a safety net for your business’ data when disaster actually does strike.
Your business' safety net comes in the form of your disaster recovery plan. Just like installing a sprinkler system in a building to prevent the spread of fire, this plan is created and put to the side, ready to be used in the event of a disaster. But, what is a Disaster Recovery Plan? Simply put, a disaster recovery plan is a step-by-step, recorded procedure, which lays out how a business can quickly continue its functions after an unexpected event.
In the age of cyber crimes becoming more frequent, a disaster recovery plan is the perfect solution to implement the security of data and other significant items to your business. The main focus of a disaster recovery plan is to help your business reconcile lost data and regain system functionality after disaster occurs. When creating a disaster recovery plan, there are two major tools that must be considered: RTO, which determines how long your business can survive without its usual IT infrastructure, and RPO, which determines how much data can be lost without severely damaging your business.
The first tool is called Recovery Time Objective, or RTO. Simply put, RTO is a measurement that helps determine how fast you must recover your IT (Information Technology) infrastructure and data after a disaster strikes in order for your business to continue operating as usual. There are two ends to the spectrum of RTO: either all the servers are down or all the servers are up and running. In between these two ends is called “unplanned downtime.”
The measurement of RTO is time, more specifically the time the business can survive without its usual servers before operations are restored to normal. Your RTO is determined based on one question: How long can your business survive without a specific process once the damage has been discovered? The answer can vary from days, hours, to even minutes.
For example, in your disaster recovery plan, you have determined that your RTO is twelve hours. That means your business can continue its usual functions without all its infrastructure and data for only twelve hours. If the infrastructure and data are not restored to its normalcy by twelve hours, then the business will most likely become afflicted by irreversible damage.
The second tool is called Recovery Point Objective, or RPO. Although similar in name compared to RTO, it measures more than solely time in your disaster recovery plan. RPO computes the amount of data that could be lost or damaged in the event of a disaster. This concept brings the importance of data backup into play. Since it measures data, RPO also determines how much time between the latest data backup and the disaster that could occur without causing major harm to your business. Such information from RPO can help figure out how often data backups should be performed, which will then prepare the data for any disaster that will strike.
RPO is measured with time as well. Your RPO is determined based on one question: How current does your data need to be once it is restored for your business to function properly? The answer varies between different types of business; financial institutions usually need their data updated from the last hour, while retailers can work with data that has been last updated the night before.
For example, your business’ data is backed up everyday at one o’clock in the morning. Then one day, a disaster takes place at six o’clock in the morning. That means five hours worth of data has been affected by the disaster. On one hand, if you determined your business’ RPO to be twelve hours, then your business is in good health. On the other hand, if you determined your RPO to be three hours, then your business is in danger of being crippled by major damage.
RTO and RPO: The Differences
There are three differences between Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective:
- RTO is primarily focused on the business’ needs as a whole since it deals with the concept of time: How much time does the business have before it cannot survive without its usual infrastructure and data? RPO is only concerned about the literal data of the business: How much data can be lost before the business sustains major damage?
- Just like any plan, a disaster recovery plan has goals. The goal of RPO, which is to back up data within its time limit, is simple to handle since it can be done automatically through an installed data backup system. This backup system continues functioning throughout the disaster and after since the disaster does not directly affect it. The goal of RTO is to give the business enough time to recover from the disaster before the maximum hour is reached. RTO’s goal is more abstract since it cannot be done automatically; its goal includes restoring all IT functions, which must be done by hand.
- Determining the times of restoration vary between RPO and RTO. RPO’s time of restoration depends solely on the data backup. Since RTO covers the entirety of the business’ operations, all the variables of the business come into play. Another component of RTO's restoration time is the limitations of the business’ IT organization. For example, if the IT organization can restore data in at least three hours, then also the RTO must be at least three hours.
- The implementation of RPO is simple since it only deals with data usage. With that, it is stable and consists of a few components, such as the data backup system. The execution of RTO is more challenging since it includes the whole operation of the business, including the IT organization.
Why Use RTO and RPO?
To create an effective plan, it is important to determine the limitations of your business before the time of crisis occurs. Then when disaster strikes, the guesswork and worry of how the business will hold up in the aftermath will be taken out.
RTO and RPO are tools to determine the limitations of your business when it undergoes disaster. Providing information on how much time and data the business can conduct operations after a disaster has occured, RTO and RPO helps formulate your disaster recovery plan. Each business is different, therefore each business’ disaster recovery plan must be different as well.
A plan without determining the specifics of your business’ shape will be proved inefficient when it is put to the test in an event of a disaster. Applying RTO and RPO to your business’ disaster recovery plan and using their information will result in the most efficient disaster recovery plan for your business. With this safety net securely in place, the adventure of business can thrive to its fullest.