Why RTO disaster recovery is mission critical to your business.

by | Feb 3, 2017

RTO disaster recovery may not sound sexy, but it’s important.

“I can get the engines running again in four hours, Captain!”

“We only have one hour, Scotty!”

Most businesses today have computer systems which are necessary for their operations. A disaster such as a fire or theft can make them useless and bring the business to a halt. If the loss of services lasts too long, it will seriously disrupt the business, causing financial losses. Beyond some point, downtime means permanent business failure.

A disaster recovery plan is necessary to get through such situations intact. With the right preparations, the business can get going again in a reasonable amount of time. It can restore its data, get a system running, and resume an acceptable level of operations. Two key questions are how long it will take, and how long the company can afford to take.

The plan has to specify how long it aims to take from the time of the disaster till resumption of operations. This is called the Recovery Time Objective (RTO). The RTO disaster recovery plans aim at needs to balance several considerations:

  • How urgent is a quick recovery? A furniture store can survive a few days’ shutdown. A real-time data service will get into trouble by being down for an hour.
  • How well can the business operate without its computer systems? If it can get by for a while with paper records or the surviving computer equipment, that reduces the urgency.
  • What will it cost to achieve a given RTO?
  • How likely is a disaster? The odds have to be weighed against the cost.
  • Is it more cost-effective to improve the RTO or to invest in disaster-proofing?

The answers to these questions involve complicated calculations and a certain amount of guesswork. The RTO disaster recovery plans specify has to be short enough to avoid serious losses, yet not require disproportionate ongoing costs.

Don’t confuse RTO with RPO, or Recovery Point Objective. RPO is the maximum acceptable interval between the latest time data can be recovered from and the time of failure. It’s roughly equivalent to the incremental backup interval.

A realistic RTO disaster recovery plan

A plan can stick any RTO onto any set of procedures. Whether it’s achievable is a separate question. An RTO that assumes everything will proceed smoothly and nothing will go wrong is unrealistic. By definition, things have gone wrong in a disaster. People could be unreachable. Phone circuits could be overwhelmed. The Internet connection could be down. The building might be in ashes.

In the worst-case scenarios, no recovery is possible. A magnitude 8 earthquake or a tsunami will overwhelm almost any recovery plan. The RTO needs to consider only disasters where recovery is a reasonable option.

The situation is likely to be chaotic. Unless the recovery doesn’t require any human intervention, the plan needs to take reorganization time into account.

Cloud-based approaches for RTO disaster recovery planning

Using cloud resources helps with both disaster-proofing and disaster recovery. Cloud data centers are more resistant to serious damage than most on-premise systems, and they provide redundancy. A cloud-based failover system can take over quickly when a disaster occurs.

A virtual machine is an image of a working system which can run on any suitable hardware. A cloud backup which creates a virtual machine image and can quickly launch it allows a short RTO. Functionality will come back in a very short time.

A failover system that shares data with the primary system can take over as soon as it detects that the primary has stopped responding. This requires keeping all data in cloud storage, but it can bring the RTO very close to zero.

Datto business continuity solutions provide reliable, secure offsite backup and create virtual machines for rapid failover. A Datto system supports a low RTO at a reasonable cost. Business will resume quickly and customers will remain satisfied. Contact us to learn about all the business continuity solutions we offer.

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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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