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RTO and RPO: What they are and why they matter

As a business owner, you already know that disaster recovery is crucial. Research suggests a staggering 40 percent of companies fail to recommence operations following a natural disaster. 

RTO and RPO are two integral aspects of disaster recovery – that is Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective, respectively.

In this article, we’ll explain what RTO and RPO are and discuss why they should matter to your business. Let’s jump right into it.

What is Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

Following a disaster – whether it’s a total network failure, a hurricane, or severe security breach – data recovery isn’t instant. The process takes time.

Your RTO is how long it should take your business to recover fully from data loss or an event that has exposed or restricted access to your data.

Most backup systems use an image-based technology with offsite replication, which adds an extra layer of protection. From start to finish, recovering business data from a backup like this can take about 24 hours.

If your business deals with extremely sensitive data, you should aim to have it restored and secured even faster. The same goes for business-critical data, the information you need to complete vital business operations. For example, if you add a virtualized cloud backup to the strategy mentioned above, recovery could happen in just a couple of hours.

Why does RTO matter?

Look at it this way: if your backup is completely up-to-date and you begin the recovery process as soon as humanly possible, your backup will still be about 24-hours old. That’s a whole day of lost data – and potentially lost revenue.

Both small and large companies feel the financial impact of downtime, which includes employee salaries and lost sales. Calculating the cost of downtime in your business is a useful way to determine whether or not you need to invest in a backup system that reduces your RTO.

What is Recovery Point Objective (RPO)?

Put simply, your RPO is the specified amount of time you have during or following a data disaster before you lose more data than what’s acceptable according to your Disaster Recovery Plan. Defining your RPO clarifies how much data your business can afford to lose before it impacts your business’s capacity to undertake day-to-day operations.

This point will differ from business to business and will change depending on the type of data you create and store. Most importantly, your RPO will depend on how often you backup your data – in the face of a catastrophe, will you lose one or 24 hours of data?

Why does RPO matter?

Defining your Recovery Point Objective will help you determine where you should invest your money. If your business can afford to lose a day of data, there’s no need to pay for more frequent backups. On the other end of the scale, if your business can’t afford to lose even a minute’s worth of data (for example, banks and other financial institutions fall into this category), continuous backups are essential.

Protecting your business from disaster

Your RTO and RPO are just one facet of your organization’s broader Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans.