RTO and RPO: What They Mean and How to Achieve Them


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RTO and RPO: What They Mean and How to Achieve Them


You can’t predict when an IT disaster will bring your business to a screeching halt. But defining and planning in advance for your response to the disaster is critical. To do this, you need to know the crucial metrics for disaster recovery—the length of time your business can survive until systems are restored (measured as RTO), and the amount of data your business can risk in restoring from a backup (measured as RPO). RTO and RPO values will vary across different companies, but all companies must find these points of compromise between their needs for system availability and their investment in safeguarding their data.

Understanding RTO and RPO

RTO and RPO are closely related terms. Both of them are paramount to your disaster recovery strategy.

Recovery time objective (RTO) is the amount of time after which you need to have your systems back up and running after an outage. In a perfect world, every business could have an RTO of, say, one second. But in the real world, it’s generally only stock trading websites that have that kind of RTO. With so much money at stake, they invest heavily in redundant systems and automatic failover. The price they pay wouldn’t be worth it for most other types of businesses.

So, there’s a tradeoff here. Nobody wants to wait days or weeks to bring their business back online. But depending on whether your RTO is measured in seconds, minutes, or hours, you’ll have different backup options at vastly different price points.

Recovery point objective (RPO) refers to the amount of business data you’re willing to lose to a system outage. In a perfect world, you’d be able to restore every keystroke anyone in your organization made up until the very instant of the crash. More realistically, you will have to be willing to let go of your most recent data. The question is: how recent? As with RTO, you’ll have different options for ensuring an RPO you can live with. The less data you’re willing to lose, the more you’ll generally have to pay for your backup solutions.

Clearly, there’s a balance to strike when your company is establishing RTO and RPO and finding solutions that meet these objectives.

Common Methods of Achieving RTO and RPO

Your ability to achieve your RTO and RPO will depend almost entirely on the technology you’re using.

If you’re doing data-only backups but you have to reinstall your operating system after a server crash, then your business will likely remain offline for many hours as your team works to reinstall your OS plus all of its patches and updates. Your RTO will need to reflect this reality.

If you’re doing image-based backups, you may not be much better off. Disk-image backups require that you install onto exactly the same kind of server you used before the crash. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to spend days rebuilding and patching your systems on the new hardware.

Some sys admins believe that if they use one of these methods but fully document all their processes and systems, they’ll be able to recover quickly from an interruption. But here’s the reality: IT is messy. Technology changes. People come and go, taking with them the processes that live only in their heads. Documentation goes missing. So do patches and updates.

On top of that, if you’re using a turnkey solution where your server came with the database and OS pre-installed, you’ll likely have little idea what has been done to these machines to make them work well—and so you’ll be in a tough position trying to replicate the configuration when a crash occurs.

That’s why we believe companies that want to maximize their chances of achieving their RTO and RPO need to invest in a more reliable system.

Why Full System Backups?

Here’s a better way to achieve your RTO and RPO: perform full-system backups. With full-system backups, you regularly back up your entire system—OS, business applications, and data.

Storix Adaptable System Recovery (SBAdmin) is full-system backup that enables you to schedule your backups and perform them incrementally. This way, you can choose to back up only the files that have changed within a certain period of time you designate. For example, you might schedule a weekly backup, and then from there, do incremental backups every day, every hour, and every few minutes. You can maximize your chances of achieving your RPO without putting a burden on your storage.

As for RTO, SBAdmin helps you there, too. By backing up your entire system, you’ll shave many hours off your recovery process because your team won’t have to reinstall your OS, patches, and upgrades. They’ll simply restore all of this from your latest backup – even to dissimilar hardware or storage.

So, are your RTO and RPO realistic for your business? Are you well-equipped to meet them? Our disaster recovery experts can help you answer questions like these. For a free, no-pressure consultation, call us at (877) 786-7491.