RTO (Recovery Time Objective) Explained

By IBM Services

What’s an RTO (Recovery Time Objective)?

RTOs represent the amount of time an application can be down and not result in significant damage to a business and the time that it takes for the system to go from loss to recovery. This recovery process includes the steps that IT must take to return the application and its data to its pre-disaster state. For high-priority applications, an RTO can be safely expressed in seconds, as long as the IT department has invested in failover services.   RTOs require your IT department to first sort applications based on their priority and risk of business loss. IT then allots these applications the appropriate amount of your enterprise’s resources, namely time, money and IT infrastructure.

Determining an RTO

RTOs are used to measure how much time it takes after the disaster for the IT department to recover the data. For their assessment basis, RTOs represent the overall needs of your business and determine how long your business can survive withoutIT infrastructure and services. RTOs first need to be aligned with what’s possible by your IT department. IT administrators need a strong comprehension of the different type of restore speeds to calculate an RTO that meets the needs of the business.For example, an RTO of one hour can’t be met if the minimum possible restore time is two hours.   

Because the process involves restoring all IT operations, RTOs are often complicated. Your IT department can streamline some of the recovery process by automating as much as possible.  The RTO may have greater costs than that of a granular RPO, and a demanding RTO involves your entire business infrastructure and not just data. The cost of attaining an RTO or RPO is matched with your IT department’s prioritization of applications and data. IT prioritizes applications and data based on their revenue and risk.  If an application’s data is regulated, then data loss from that app could result in large fines regardless of how often that app is used.

Attaining a near-zero RTO or RPO

While RTOs and RPOs vary regarding the application and data priority, it’s incredibly costly for any enterprise to deliver a near-zero RTO or RPO for all their applications. A 100 percent uptime for RTO and zero lost data for RPO can only be attained by investing in continuous data replication and virtual environments. 

Example of an RTO

Granular item recovery is one example of an RTO. For this example, a user at a busy company deletes an important email and empties the trash folder. This company uses Microsoft Exchange as a business-critical application and it’s IT department perpetually backs up delta-level changes in Exchange along with a backup app that features granular backup and recovery. This feature allows the IT department to quickly retrieve the important email in about five minutes instead of restoring a full virtual machine for only one email.  

What is a recovery time objective (RTO)and how does it affect disaster recovery for your enterprise?

Disaster recovery and an RTO

Power outages. Theft. Corrupted servers and hard drives. Cyberattacks and ransomware. Tornados, earthquakes and hurricanes. There are many different types of disasters that can wreak havoc on your business if you’re not prepared for them. Because these disasters are often unavoidable, having a strong IT infrastructure and establishing regular recovery times and point objectives are essential to bolstering your recovery. It’s possible for your IT department to failover an application and replicate your data for a near-zero loss, however doing so requires substantial resources. Your IT department needs to establish a RTO based on your application priority and the budget and resources allotted to them. 

What is an RPO and how are RTOs different?

RTOs coincide with recovery point objectives (RPOs), a measurement of time from the failure, disaster or similar loss-causing event. RPOs calculate back in time to when your data was last usable, probably the most recent backup. RPOs and RTOs are crucial concepts for business continuity and are necessary business metrics for determining how often your enterprise should schedule its data backups. 

Resiliency orchestration and disaster recovery

There are many challenges for a disaster recovery strategy, especially for a hybrid IT environment disaster recovery. These challenges include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Workloads deployed across different environments
  • Interdependencies between IT infrastructure and applications
  • Bringing all the devices, components, and applications back to the RPO and restoring the business to full operation
    • System restore can be further delayed by recovering systems and applications in the incorrect order. 

What can be done to develop and deliver a successful disaster recovery strategy despite every obstacle? Recovering a few critical applications in a few hours is traditionally possible with the right IT team, but it requires a lot of valuable resources. Today’s demands are for greater RTOs and RPOs and for a system recovery where multiple mission-critical applications are quickly restored. It’s now possible to minimize the disruption’s impact and perform a recovery within minutes of an outage. Automation is crucial, allowing disaster recovery programs to scale by automating workflows between different applications speedily and reliably across a transition to hybrid environments. 

Today’s resiliency orchestration technology helps you successfully implement your disaster recovery strategy and reduce production downtime demands and business exposure as a result of outages. In terms of preparation, resiliency orchestration helps organizations successfully perform disaster recovery tests with less staff. Resiliency orchestration also helps these organizations produce a greater reduction in disaster recovery drill preparation and validation. One of the principle advantages of resiliency orchestration technology is its ability to function across physical, virtual and cloud environments while sustaining application awareness. As self-service and low service-level agreement parameters are consistently becoming the expectations of end users for cloud services, orchestration-based resiliency strategies are becoming increasingly crucial for modern enterprises looking to adopt cloud environments.