RTO and RPO: How To Bounce Back From an IT Disaster By Thinking About Time

When you think about protecting the information on your network from a disaster like a hurricane or ransomware attack, do you think about how fast you can get up and running again? Or do you just think about having backups?

Most organizations focus on having recent backups. But to be truly prepared, everyone needs to think about these six letters of disaster recovery — RTO and RPO. Here’s why:

RTO and RPO are abbreviations for Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective. The T and P are what’s most important.


The T in RTO is the TIME it takes to go through all of the steps to get back up and running. This includes not only knowing where your data is and how to get it, but the tools you’ll use to get it up and running. Ask:

  • How fast can we access the backup data?
  • What tools and equipment will we use to access the backup data?
  • Will the equipment be able to run everything we need it to?
  • Is our backup data and backup equipment in the same physical location as our primary equipment?
  • Does our backup work?

The only way to know if you can meet your RTO is to test your Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).

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The P in RPO is the POINT in history you are returning to. If you backed up yesterday at midnight, for example, the point in history you’re returning to (as far as your data is concerned) is yesterday at midnight. Ask:

  • How often do we need to back up?
  • What’s most important to backup? Should we back up the most important data more often?
  • How much can we afford to lose before it impacts our business?
  • How much of the backup process can we automate?
  • Can we automate verifying backups, too?

Most organizations don’t want to lose days of email or work product — or anything they’ve spent time creating.

Continuous Data Protection

A recent, complete backup makes for a happier recovery. That’s why most cloud backup tools back up any changes in your system several times a day (or more often). This is called continuous data protection (CDP).

For small businesses that operate entirely in the cloud, and for home computer networks, getting CDP is simply a matter of choosing a highly rated cloud backup service and creating a backup schedule that matches your RTO and RPO requirements. It can take a while to upload all of your data but once the initial cloud backup is complete, incremental changes are backed up frequently enough so that backing up won’t slow down your network.

For organizations that operate both in the cloud and on servers, as most companies do, it’s more complicated.

RTO and RPO as part of your comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan

While your RTO and RPO are the foundations of your DRP, it takes more than data backups and backup equipment to stay in business after a disaster. You need to be able to access your applications and IT infrastructure in addition to your data so everything runs properly. You may also need an available alternate location to run it all from. And if you need to comply with regulations, you have legal obligations as well. Ask:

  • How long can our email, phones, and key applications be down before it significantly affects our organization?
  • How long will it take to get spare equipment in place to run our backups if our primary equipment isn’t available?
  • How long will it take to recreate any data that was lost?
  • Is recovering from last week acceptable? Or is last night or even just a few minutes ago the best option?
  • What’s at stake if we don’t get back up fast — our revenue or our reputation? Or both?

Also think about where your backup is located. Having it in the cloud in another region of the country is best. That way, if a disaster strikes your headquarters, your backups will not be affected by the same disaster.

While Leapfrog has historically recommended cloud-based backup for all of our clients —  it’s been the best way to leverage the cloud for IT ecosystems — new DRaaS options make cloud-based DR even more attractive, even to larger businesses that have a redundant DR site and staff to run it. Today’s DRaaS backup and recovery solutions have faster RTOs and more frequent RPOs than even some of the most advanced redundant site solutions. With some solutions, like the one we offer at Leapfrog, your entire operation can be up and running in the cloud in a matter of minutes after disaster strikes. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about the ways we can help you meet your RTO and RPO, or to streamline your DR planning and execution.

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