RPO and RTO: What's the difference?
There are many causes of data loss: human error, malware and hardware failure are just a few of them. In an event of data loss, backup allows you to restore your data and continue with business as usual. However, one of the most important aspects to consider is the amount of time it will take to get back to business; how long will it take to restore your data and when will that data be from?
If you’re restoring out of date data, then you’ll have lost a lot of work, similarly if it takes too long to restore the data then you’ll have lost business. To strike the perfect balance you need to consider your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
What is RPO?
RPO is your Recovery Point Objective. This is the point at which you’d like to recover your data from in the event of data loss. In practice, this relates to how often you back up your data. If in an event of data loss, you think you could afford to lose 2 days of work, then you would have a Recovery Point Objective of 2 days. If you think you could only lose 2 hours of work, then you would have a Recovery Point Objective of 2 hours. You can decide how much you can afford to lose by thinking about how often your data changes.
What is RTO?
RTO is your Recovery Time Objective. This refers to how long you can cope without data for in an event of data loss. If you can cope for 24 hours without accessing your data then your RTO would be 24 hours. If, on the other hand, you can only cope for 3 hours without data access, then your RTO would be 3 hours. You can decide how long you can cope for by thinking about how much work you could complete without accessing your data or IT systems.
Choosing the right RPO and RTO for your business
There are a few more points to bear in mind. Firstly, your RPO and RTOs can be unique to each user and/or server. For example, your archive server might have an acceptable RTO of two weeks, whilst your CRM server might have an acceptable RTO of 30 minutes. Similarly, your finance team might need a lower, and therefore quicker, RPO and RTO than some of your other staff because they deal with critical changing data all the time.
Whilst money isn’t the be all and end all, cost is an important factor to consider. Generally, you’ll pay a bit more for a very short RPO and RTO compared to a lengthy one. Weighing up this cost compared to the cost of lost business will help you strike the perfect balance.
Finally, remember that you can change your RPO and RTO; they’re not set in stone forever. If you don’t think your RPO and RTO are correct then you can change them. After all, it’s better to change them than realise too late that they weren’t correct!
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