The Right Disaster Recovery RTO Is Crucial For Your Business

by | Dec 12, 2016

Disaster Recovery RTO is a serious matter

As a small business owner or manager, you realize that downtime is measured not just in hours and days, but also in lost revenue and lost opportunities. That’s why when a disaster of some kind hits your company and your operations are down, your primary concern (after the safety of employees and any others who might be affected) will be the question: when can we be up and running again? The answer to that question will depend, in large part, on how quickly you planned to be able to resume operations after a disruption. That’s why your disaster recovery plan (DRP) should be based on a disaster recovery RTO that is appropriate for your particular business functions and IT infrastructure.

What is Disaster Recovery RTO?

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is simply the amount of time critical business functions can be down before there are serious repercussions from the outage. It can range from seconds to days, depending on the nature of your business. The real importance of your RTO is that it is not simply a wish, but something you plan for. In fact, the RTOs you designate will in large part determine your disaster recovery strategy. As Charlie Maclean-Bristol, director of PlanB Consulting, says, “Defining the recovery time objectives (RTO) for your activities is one of the most critical things the business continuity manager will carry out. Get them wrong and the whole basis for your recovery strategy is flawed.”

How RTO Shapes Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Ideally, every business owner or manager would like for their overall RTO to be zero – no downtime after a disruptive incident. But for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that’s simply not realistic. The issue is that as RTO goes down, costs go up.

For example, to achieve a near-zero RTO for your entire IT operation would require that you maintain what’s called a hot backup site. That hot site would have installed duplicate servers and data storage units that are continually mirrored to those in your primary datacenter, allowing instant failover when a disruption occurs. But maintaining such duplicate sites is a budget drain far beyond what most SMBs are able or willing to expend.

A better approach is to assess the critical functions and processes on which your business depends to determine the particular RTO that is appropriate for each, and then design your disaster recovery strategy to accommodate those requirements.

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How To Set Your RTO

Start by conducting a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to identify your most critical business functions. How long could each of these functions be down before there would be unacceptable adverse impacts on your overall operation? Then, having set desired RTOs for these critical functions, you can identify the IT processes associated with them, and determine the RTO needed for each of those processes.

For example, the processes that support customer transactions may actually need a near-zero RTO. Those associated with archiving historical data, on the other hand, can have a much higher RTO.

How To Have A Low RTO At A Reasonable Cost

A good cloud-based disaster recovery service provider, like Datto, can offer a level of flexibility and agility that allows customers to achieve an appropriate RTO at an affordable cost. By making use of virtual server technology, a cloud-based DR provider can deliver RTOs of minutes, or even seconds if required, without the necessity of maintaining a dedicated hot site that is only used when a disaster actually occurs.

For example, the Datto SIRIS 3 solution that Invenio IT offers on a monthly subscription basis does image-based backups that capture a complete picture of your server. Any of those backup images can be booted as a virtual machine to get your operations back online within seconds.

Getting your RTO vs cost tradeoff right is one of the most important, and difficult, aspects of DR planning. If you’d like to know more about how to determine an appropriate disaster recovery RTO for your business, we would be happy to help. Please contact us.

Dale Shulmistra is a Business Continuity Specialist at Invenio IT, responsible for shaping the company’s technology initiatives -- selecting, designing, implementing & supporting business continuity solutions to bolster client operational efficiencies and eliminate downtime.

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