The Role of RPO and RTO in Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning

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Every organization, regardless of size or industry, faces potential disruptions. Beyond power outages and equipment failures, disruptions can also stem from cyberattacks and the forces of nature. A robust disaster recovery plan (DRP) serves as your organization’s lifeline in these trying moments, ensuring a swift and efficient recovery to minimize downtime and safeguard critical business operations.

Within your DRP, two key concepts play a crucial role in determining your overall recovery strategy: recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). Understanding these concepts and how they work together is essential for building a comprehensive and effective DRP.

What is RPO? 

RPO, measured in time, is the maximum amount of data loss your organization can tolerate after a disaster. Think of it as the most recent point in time from which your critical data can be reliably recovered. For example, an RPO of three hours represents three hours’ worth of data lost since an outage occurs.

  • Establishing your RPO: Through a thorough business impact analysis (BIA), you determine the acceptable level of data loss for various systems and applications. For instance, an eCommerce platform may have an RPO of 24 hours for its sales data and seven days for its blog posts.
  • How RPO affects disaster recovery strategy: Your RPO helps determine your data backup schedule, particularly the frequency of data backups. The less data loss you can tolerate, the stricter your RPO would be and the more frequently your backups need to be made. In addition, the more stringent your RPO, the more high-quality the methods you need to implement. For example, much smaller businesses with simpler data requirements can utilize traditional tape backups scheduled once a day, while larger businesses with more complex industry demands may need real-time replication solutions to minimize data loss.

What is RTO?

RTO refers to the maximum tolerable downtime your organization can withstand after a disruption. Effectively, it represents the timeframe within which your critical systems and applications need to be operational again. 

  • Establishing your RTO: To calculate for RTO, you need to measure the impact of downtime on various aspects of your business. Mission-critical applications, such as online banking systems or healthcare systems, likely require an RTO of minutes, while noncritical systems, such as printer servers, could have an RTO of several hours.
  • How RTO affects disaster recovery strategy: Your RTO dictates your DRP strategy. For near-zero downtime requirements, you might need recovery solutions that ensure immediate or near-immediate restoration of critical systems. Less critical systems might utilize simpler recovery procedures with a longer RTO.

Applying RPO and RTO

Crafting a robust DRP hinges on achieving a balance between RPO and RTO. So when establishing your DRP, consider the following:

  • Tighter RPO vs. looser RPO: Minimizing data loss through a tighter RPO translates to more frequent backups. While this safeguards your data, it can strain storage capacity, increase backup complexity, and ultimately drive up costs. Conversely, a more lax RPO allows for simpler and cheaper backups but exposes you to the risk of greater data loss during a disaster.
  • Near-zero RTO vs. longer RTO: Ensuring near-zero downtime with a stringent RTO necessitates investment in expensive redundancy solutions and complex recovery procedures. This minimizes disruption, but it comes at a significant financial cost. On the other hand, a longer RTO offers a more cost-effective approach, but can lead to substantial business interruptions if critical systems are down for an extended period.

Striking the ideal balance between RPO and RTO depends on your organization’s unique needs and other factors, including:

  • Industry regulations: Certain industries, such as finance, have stricter data security regulations that necessitate a tighter RPO. In addition, other industries, such as healthcare, wherein patient health and safety are the primary concerns, may demand an RTO for critical systems that is as close to zero as possible.
  • Risk tolerance: Evaluate the potential financial losses that could stem from data loss and downtime. Businesses heavily reliant on real-time data processing, such as finance, might prioritize a tighter RPO and shorter RTO, even if they require expensive solutions, such as continuous data protection. On the other hand, a commercial establishment with the ability to reconstruct daily sales data from point-of-sale receipts might tolerate far looser RPO. At the same time, it can withstand longer RTOs so long as the core systems are unaffected.
  • Criticality of data: Not all data is created equal. Mission-critical systems and data (e.g., customer databases and financial records) require the most stringent RPO and RTO. Less critical systems (e.g., internal file servers) can have a less stringent approach, allowing for a more cost-effective balance.

Liberty Center’s One Cloud Services has a comprehensive approach to RPO and RTO

An RPO of 4 hours comes standard with all One Cloud Services public and private cloud plans. Customer data is replicated to a secondary data center 250 miles away from the primary or production data center. In the event of a disaster, the oldest data will be no older than 4 hours. 

In the event of a disaster, customer’s data is in a bootable format and can be restored in less than 15 minutes. Most of the time, the RTO aspect of disaster recovery is more impacted by the time it takes for staff to make a decision to move workload to the secondary data center. Liberty’s technology allows for fast recovery once that decision is made. 

Need help establishing your RPOs and RTOs? Want to improve your overall DRP strategy? 
Liberty Center One can help. We specialize in leveraging technology to ensure the operational continuity of small businesses in Michigan. Contact us today.