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RPO and RTO in disaster recovery

Web Hosting Blog

Accidents happen, hardware may fail, and downtime, all of which can affect your business, but it’s a lot easier to deal with if you have a disaster recovery plan in place to fall back on.

Most web hosting companies back up their customers’ data and will define how often they do this in their agreements. But sometimes, your data needs to be archived on different schedules, and often more frequently. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so everyone’s disaster recovery plan is unique. You’ll need to work closely with your web host to create one suitable for you and your business.

The most important thing is to have one – after all, the absence of written guidelines will dramatically increase the risk of disappointment during a disaster.

That’s why you’ll want to work with your web host to write, approve and deploy a full disaster recovery plan that actually works. Be sure to ask them about their capabilities before you sign a contract and start working with them.

You need to understand what the two terms RPO (recovery point objective) and your RTO (recovery time objective) mean and how to distinguish them because they’re the essential to create your disaster recovery guidelines.

RPO (Recovery Point Objective)

A Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the point in a server’s timeline that a business can return to after a disaster. So, if your backup schedule is set to one backup per day, and there was a critical issue where you needed to restore from the backup, you would lose all of the data from when the last backup was taken. When deciding your RPO, you need to consider how much data loss you could afford to lose, which is essential when creating a disaster recovery strategy.   

RPO Real-Life Example:

If an e-commerce website receives an average of one transaction every three hours, and has to restore its database from a backup, all transaction information would be lost from the when the last backup was taken.

So, if they have a RPO time of 24 hours, they will lose the data for up to eight transactions, which means they could lose a lot of revenue. To prevent this, they need to set their RPO to every 2 – 3 hours or even shorter to limit the risk and prevent data loss. 

RTO (Recovery Time Objective)

A Recovery Time Objective (RTO) refers to the maximum downtime a customer could handle before it causes damage to their business or day-to-day operations. Accidents – and disasters – happen, and your network, application or system could be affected. Part of creating your disaster recovery strategy is figuring out how much downtime you can handle as a business,

RTO Real-Life Example:

For this example, let’s pretend you have a brochure website, which is not mission critical. How much downtime could you afford for your site to be off-line?

If you site is just for information, you may accept 24 hours of downtime, however if the site generates leads for the business, you may only be able to handle several hours.

It’s vital to define your expectations of how much downtime you can realistically afford to endure; this is your RTO. Depending on the business, every minute you’re offline, there is a higher risk of bad publicity, angry customers, and lost revenue. So having a RTO time planned shows your team how long they have to fix the problem so that they can act accordingly.

The true cost of downtime

It’s important to remember that the primary function of a disaster recovery plan is to minimise the cost of downtime for your business in the event of a disaster. If your site was down for an hour, how much money or reputational damage would it cost your business? RPOs and RTOs help you identify this, and allow you to plan timeframes for fixes and possible data loss in your disaster recovery strategy. 

In some cases, customers may need to have as close to zero downtime as possible, which may require a backup solution as well as implementing a fully resilient platform. This can be achieved but for an additional cost, which is why understanding your PRO and RTO is critical to help identify your overall hosting requirement.

If you want to discuss your disaster recovery plan and hosting requirements, get in touch with a member of our team. Our experts are always happy to help you choose the right solution.