When researching disaster recovery plans, you may come across real-time objective (RTO) and backup point objective (RPO). They are two fundamental concepts used in information technology (IT)-related disaster recovery plans. Research shows that over half of all businesses have experienced prolonged IT outages. While you can’t always prevent an outage from occurring, there are ways to recover from them. Proper recovery, though, requires an understanding of RTO and RPO.

What Is RTO?

In disaster recovery, RTO refers to how long it will take your business’s IT infrastructure to get back up and running. It’s essentially a metric of time. RTO reflects the estimated length of time that it will take your business’s IT infrastructure to recover — specifically get back up and running — after an outage or other disruption.

Most businesses measure RTO beginning when an outage or disruption occurs. Your business’s IT team, for example, may not start working on the problem for several hours. Regardless, RTO is generally measured when the outage or disruption occurs and not when IT workers begin to fix it.

What Is RPO?

RPO, on the other hand, refers to the amount of time that may pass during an outage or disruption until your business’s data loss exceeds its tolerance. It may sound confusing, but RPO is actually quite simple. Most businesses create data backups at regular intervals. Maybe your business creates a new backup every 12 hours, or perhaps it creates a new backup every 24 hours. Regardless, RPO is the maximum time interval for which your business’s data is good following an outage or disruption.

Your business may have an RPO of 16 hours, for instance. If the last backup was created 13 hours ago, it’s still good. Any backups created after 16 hours, conversely, have exceeded your business’s tolerance. Therefore, they are not good. The purpose of RPO is to determine how much time can pass during an outage or disruption until data is considered bad.

The Differences Between RTO and RPO

RTO and RPO are two sides of the same disaster recovery coin. They are both time-related concepts that assist businesses in the recovery of IT outages and disruptions. RTO is simply a measurement of how long it will take to get your business’s IT infrastructure up and running. In comparison, RPO is a measurement of how much time may pass until your business’s data loss exceeds its tolerance. When creating a disaster recovery plan, you should include both RTO and RPO for a more comprehensive and effective strategy.

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