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Understanding the Role of RPOs and RTOs in Minimizing Downtime

In our last post, we discussed how Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) enables even small organizations to implement an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan. Instead of purchasing and implementing duplicate IT infrastructure that sits idle, waiting for disaster to strike, organizations can leverage a cloud service provider’s resources to prevent downtime. Virtual machine images and mission-critical data are backed up to the cloud, and activated should the primary environment suffer an outage.

Of course, DRaaS is merely a mechanism — organizations must still put some thought into developing a DR plan. The first step is to perform a business impact analysis (BIA), in which IT functions are ranked according to their importance to business operations. Once these priorities are determined, the recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) can be established for each IT function.

The BIA, RPOs and RTOs recognize that you will experience a certain amount of downtime and lose a certain amount of data even if you have an effective DR plan in place. How much data can you afford to lose? How fast must your data be restored? What kind of impact will an outage have on your business?

Defining Risk Tolerance

RPOs and RTOs provide concrete answers to these questions. The RPO is the maximum age of data that needs to be restored in order to resume business operations. For example, if a certain type of data is backed up every night at 10 p.m. and that system crashes tomorrow at 1 p.m., any data changed between 10 p.m. and 1 p.m. will be lost. If 15 hours of data loss cannot be tolerated, you need to rethink your backup procedures.

The RTO is the maximum period of time that an application or service can be unavailable after a failure occurs.In essence, the RTO tells you how much downtime your organization can tolerate. You may be able to do without some IT functions for days, while others will require rapid recovery.

RPOs and RTOs help you determine how frequently backups should occur, what kind of backup infrastructure you need, and what your DR strategy should be. Generally speaking, as RPOs and RTOs become shorter, the risks associated with downtime and data loss are reduced. However, faster recovery is generally more expensive, so you have to balance cost against potential risk to your business.

Getting the Best Protection

In addition to traditional backup, there are several technologies organizations can use to meet the increased demand for faster RPOs and RTOs:

  • A snapshot is a group of markers that point to stored data, creating a virtual copy of that data as it existed at a particular point in time. Unlike backups, snapshots can be performed while systems are online. They also provide faster data restore times.

  • Replication updates a secondary image on a separate storage platform, which is booted when a failure occurs so critical applications can be recovered almost instantly.

  • Copy data management reduces storage consumption by saving just the primary data and a single backup. Additional virtual copies can be created as needed using a snapshot mechanism without changing the primary or backup copy.

Without an advanced data protection infrastructure and strategy, downtime can cripple your operations. However, developing a plan and selecting the right technologies can be difficult for smaller organizations without in-house IT expertise. Let the experts at IronLogix help you better understand these issues and technologies so you can implement a solution that makes sense for your operations.


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