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RTO vs RPO: Why Are They Important, and How Do They Differ in Disaster Recovery Scenarios?

RTO vs RPO: Why Are They Important, and How Do They Differ in Disaster Recovery Scenarios?

Significant unplanned downtime is the quickest route to financial ruin. IT disasters are more common than ever, but it’s how you react to them that determines your company’s future viability. When disaster strikes and diminishes your uptime, it can have a devastating impact on organizational productivity, profitability, and if you manage to pull through, almost always throws a negative light on your brand reputation.

So what’s the best approach to mitigating risk and maximizing disaster recovery times? The answer to this question is critical and depends on how well you formulate a disaster recovery plan (DRP) that incorporates both Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). These two aspects of disaster recovery should form the foundation of your business continuity plan (BCP). Since IT disasters and cyberattacks are so common, your DRP must be as automatic as your office sprinkler system, setting itself in motion the moment a catastrophe hits.

Several recent studies show that ransomware attacks are one of the greatest contributors to unplanned downtime. Survey respondents revealed that their downtime after a disaster averaged roughly 23 days during the second quarter of last year. For many businesses, recovery after an operational disruption of this length is implausible. And without a suitable disaster recovery plan that includes RPO and RTO, the chances of your business successfully overcoming a prolonged stretch of system downtime are slim.

What is disaster recovery planning (DRP)?

The steps your company must take to get its operations back online immediately after an unexpected outage are all outlined in the disaster recovery plan or DRP. This action plan for resuming operations represents a fundamental component of your broader business continuity plan.

The DRP is a document pertaining to any aspect of your organization that relies upon your company’s IT infrastructure. Your disaster recovery plan is the most important resource for mitigating data loss and restoring your IT networks and infrastructure as quickly as possible. The DRP outlines how you’ll sustain operational continuity and optimal performance after a disruptive event.

Any well-developed DRP deploys both RPO and RTO in the recovery process. As you might’ve guessed, the Recovery Time Objective establishes the length of time your company can continue operations without maximally functioning IT infrastructure. On the other hand, RPO or Recovery Point Objective defines the quantity of data you can sacrifice over a specified period before your business grinds to a halt. The two frameworks help companies assess the potential business impact of a disaster while providing a basis for analyzing an effective business continuity strategy. Now, let’s define RTO and RPO in more detail before discussing the core differences between the two.

What is RTO?

Businesses use RTO as a tool to set the timeline and service levels during the disaster recovery process. There are essentially two modalities to RTO for an in-house managed IT environment. RTO addresses data servers that are completely down; or, alternatively, deals with servers that are at least partially operating. Scenarios that fall between the two are described as unplanned downtime. Whenever you develop RTO protocols, they must address the question of how much time it takes to recover from an IT disaster.

The principal aim of RTO is to establish the length of time your business can operate without access to its fully operational IT infrastructure. In other words, RTO sets the critical timeframe for restoring your business to normal operations. Making such a determination can be challenging since it is not uncommon for a significant amount of time to pass before you discover the damage of a malware attack, for example. Depending on your business, the amount of time your operations can remain functional can range from minutes to several weeks.

Let’s assume for illustration purposes that you’ve determined your RTO will last for 24 hours. This timeframe defines the amount of time your company can operate without accessing its normal IT infrastructure. RTO marks a critical time point after which your business may be unrecoverable.

What is RPO?

RPO is another tool that helps businesses identify the amount of time that can pass after a significant data loss before its operations are irreversibly damaged. This threshold establishes the maximum amount of data loss your company can endure over a specified time. If your last access to uncorrupted business data was 24 hours ago, and the RPO threshold for your company is 24 hours, anything in excess of this timeframe puts you outside the parameters of your DRP and business continuity plan.

RPO helps guide and inform your critical data recovery and information backup solutions. A well-developed RPO safeguards your operations from prolonged and potentially devastating unplanned downtime after a disaster. The two primary questions you should ask before developing your RPO are: How much data does your business need to operate? And how much time can it function without access to mission-critical networks and information?

RPO vs RTO: What’s the difference?

The two concepts admittedly present as similar and are commonly confused, but they’re also markedly different. RPO refers to your practices and procedures for backing up business data while RTO defines the time and resources required to recover your operations after a disaster. The two reflect critical elements of your DRP, however. Both help to establish a set of defined objectives during the recovery process that should never be overlooked.

The aims of RTO are more abstract and don’t support automated solutions like RPO and its associated backup procedures. Compared with RPO, RTO requires more hands-on involvement. The methods for calculating restoration times vary as well. RTO governs your operations and dozens of variables that can factor into disaster recovery.

Does your disaster recovery plan include RPO and RTO?

PCH Technologies is a preeminent leader in cybersecurity and disaster recovery planning services. Learn more about how our cyber risk assessments and comprehensive business continuity services can safeguard your organization against unexpected disruptions and expensive downtime by booking your free discovery call online or dialing 844-754-7500 today.