How much downtime can your business (and your customers) tolerate? : Determining your Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

recovery_time_objective_downtime_production_serversIn last month’s post, we talked about the process of determining your recovery point objective (RPO) by asking the question, “How much data am I willing to lose?” As promised, this post will be about the next step in the disaster recovery decision making process: Determining your recovery time objective (RTO). Both the RPO and RTO are critical values in the overall process of disaster recovery planning.

When we talk about RTO, we begin to think about downtime. The implication is that a disaster has occurred that has taken our servers/network/applications offline and they are now unavailable to our end users. We know how important it is that we have a recent replica or backup of our servers available somewhere else, but what about the recovery task itself? At this point, we have to ask: “How much downtime can your business (and your customers) tolerate?” That value, expressed in a number of minutes, hours, or days, is our RTO.

Even more specific . . . if our production servers experienced a catastrophic failure today, and all of our applications and data were suddenly inaccessible at the production site, how long would we want it to take to have our production servers fully functional with restored applications and data accessible to our end users? Is several days’ worth of downtime acceptable? Or just 1 hour? 5 minutes?

Similar to the RPO we talked about last month, business needs must be balanced with the project budget. Everyone would love to be recoverable within 5 minutes, but not everyone can afford a fully redundant infrastructure. Generally speaking, the lower the RTO the higher the cost of the solution – but we’re finding that the costs of even the lowest of RTO timeframes are becoming affordable, in fact relatively inexpensive, when weighed up against the cost of an extended outage.

There are other business drivers to consider in your planning and budgeting. For example, it may be acceptable for one particular set of data to be offline for 3 days, while another set of data needs to be back online as soon as possible – or never go offline at all through redundancy. The solution can be tailored appropriately.

Next month’s post will be the first of a series exploring various disaster recovery solutions that NetGain recommends to our clients today. If there are any backup/DR technologies that you would like to learn more about, please let me know in the comments section below. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of any assistance to you and your organization as you prepare for disaster and protect your technology investment.

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