When we're talking about disaster recovery and data backups, it's important to consider how long your business can afford to be down and how much data you can afford to lose. In this article, we will examine two key concepts in disaster recovery and business continuity – recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). We will conclude with a discussion on the importance of disaster recovery planning in your business and how to build a business case around it.
Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
What is RPO? Recovery point objective, commonly referred to as RPO, takes into consideration the point at which your data, website or application is backed-up. We’re usually talking about nightly backups or maybe a backup every two hours, or maybe even taking replication technology into account. The main concept is the type and breadth of the backup in a specific timeframe. It could be every 24 hours, it could be every two hours, it could be every 10 minutes. We focus on RPO is to ensure that we have a sufficient number of copies of data that is important or critical to our business.
In the event of a disaster or an outage, where we have actual data loss, we need to worry about the last time that the data was backed up. Here are crucial questions to ask when thinking about RPO – when was the last time a snapshot was taken? How far do we have to go back in time to recover that data?
Let’s say that you lost a virtual machine, a physical server or your entire data center went down. Now you have to worry about how much data was lost. The question to ask when it comes to RPO is – how much data can you afford to lose? How devastating would it be to lose the last 10 minutes, 30 minutes, hour or even day of work? Think about transactional data such as quotes, orders, sales, and shipping information. What about new user sign-ups and data on existing users?
Another very important question to ask about recovery point objective (RPO) is – does your data, applications, and websites have the same priority or different priorities for backups? For example, you probably don’t want to lose a ton of emails. How often should your emails be backed up? What about a file server? If you rely heavily on your file servers, you may need to take regular snapshots.
For most businesses, 24 hours is sufficient for files. However, imagine the repercussions of if your executives and employees work throughout the day on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other files. They save their work to the file server. The file server crashes without being backed-up. What is the value of the lost productivity and files to your business?
It’s clear that RPO is a very important concept for DRBC planning. It's one of the two pillars that we need to build our disaster recovery and backups conversations around. Next, we will be discussing recovery time objective (RTO).
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Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
We’ve discussed the concept of recovery point objective (RPO) and now it’s time for the second pillar which is RTO. What is RTO? Recovery time objective, commonly referred to as RTO, takes into consideration the amount of time that your business will be down. It’s a very different conversation. Just to reiterate, RPO is the point in time when backups occur. RTO has nothing to do with the amount of data you lost. When it comes to RTO, it’s simply how quickly can I get back up? The critical questions to ask before an incident are – how long can I afford to be down? Is it an hour, two hours or longer?
It’s important to analyze your RTO for each application, website, and file. Most businesses will have mission-critical applications and data that will need to be restored immediately from the last recovery point. For example, internet connectivity is probably mission-critical for your business. What if it goes down? Do you have a backup internet connection? What is the SLA from your internet service provider (ISP)? What applications are impacted by internet downtime? Does your disaster recovery plan include a measure for internet downtime?
Another example is your file server, how long can your business afford to have zero access to open files, edit files, save files or create new files? Do your employees save to their desktops? It’s important to have a full understanding of the inner workings of your DRBC plan.
RPO and RTO – Part of Larger Conversation for Disaster Recovery
Your company may or may not have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. If you have a disaster recovery plan, when is the last time you tested it? What are your RPO and RTO policies? When was it updated last? What’s changed since then? As an IT professional and department, it’s important to always be prepared. Remember that when an event happens, it’s already too late.
Do you have additional questions about disaster recovery and business continuity? We’re here to help. Here are two free downloadable resources from Datacenters.com to get you started. Click on the links below to download these free checklists and templates.