You Can’t Afford to Ignore RTO Business Continuity Requirements

by | Oct 18, 2016

What do you know about RTO Business Continuity Requirements?

A disaster that puts a business offline can destroy it. A fire, flood, or theft can interrupt its activities so long that it never recovers. To avoid this scenario, it’s necessary to have a disaster recovery plan to maintain business continuity. It needs to specify how the business will keep its data safe and how it will restore it. Besides this, it needs one more “how”: How long will it take to restore functionality?

What is RTO?

Some businesses can’t afford to be offline very long. Their maximum acceptable recovery time may be a matter of hours, minutes, or even seconds. This interval, from the time that a disruption occurs to the time an acceptable level of service is back, is called the recovery time objective, or RTO. TechTarget defines RTO as “the maximum tolerable length of time that a computer, system, network, or application can be down after a failure or disaster occurs.”

How much downtime can a business afford?

We have to imagine some unfortunate circumstances to think about what the appropriate RTO is. A disaster strikes, and computers on the premises or in the data center become unusable. An offsite backup exists, but it’s of no value without machines to restore it to.

In some cases, even an hour offline would be fatal. If contracts require a certain level of service, then extended downtime will result in penalty fees or loss of customers. An “act of God” clause might avoid outright breach of contract, but it won’t prevent loss of trust and damage to reputations.

This concern doesn’t apply equally to all businesses. Downtime is never a good thing, but the tradeoff will vary. The recovery team may decide that the risk is small enough that a few days of downtime would be acceptable. However, they shouldn’t make this decision from an exaggerated sense of what rapid recovery costs. It can be less expensive than imagined.

An RTO is a target, not a guarantee. Disasters are unpredictable, not just in when they’ll happen but in how serious an impact they’ll have. A regional disaster, such as a hurricane, will slow down any recovery plan. If power can’t be restored for an extended period, then any RTO that’s based on restoring the on-premises system will fly out the (broken) window.

What’s necessary to meet the goal?

Once the recovery team has determined the RTO, it needs to pick backup and restoration methods that will give a reasonable chance of achieving it. If it’s several days, then reliable backup is necessary, but time-critical restoration measures aren’t. The plan could simply say to get new computers and restore them from the offsite backup.

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If the RTO is hours or less, though, the plan needs a quick failover method. The normal computer systems will probably be out of commission, and few can afford to maintain backup hardware at another location. The quickest and most cost-effective solution in most cases is to be ready to launch equivalent systems on cloud servers.

To accomplish a fast failover, the cloud systems have to run from disk images which duplicate the primary systems and have access to the same data. The term that applies here is virtualization: The creation of a system image that can run as a virtual machine on any suitable hardware. With virtualization, recovery times can be just a matter of minutes.

Datto’s business continuity solutions provide virtualization and fast failover to meet very short RTO business continuity requirements. A range of services is available, providing affordable failover even to small businesses and scalable storage for larger ones. We offer a 45 day risk-free trial on Datto systems.

When a virtualized failover system takes up the load, users will notice a brief period of unresponsiveness and perhaps slower response times than they’re used to. They won’t realize, until you tell them, that bad things happened to your hardware. This buys your business the time to rebuild its systems and return to full performance levels.

Whatever your business continuity needs are, Invenio IT can help you to achieve them and minimize worst-case downtime. Contact us to learn more about what we offer.

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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