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RTO and RPO: differences in backup performance


The American credit reporting agency Equifax fell victim to a cyber attack in 2017, compromising the personal data of over 140 million users. Acknowledging insufficient backups and a delayed recovery process, the company faced legal repercussions and a loss of client trust.

Now, let's delve into the key factors of RTO and RPO indicators, crucial elements in navigating unforeseen circumstances.

What Is RTO?

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, serves as a pivotal recovery time indicator. It represents the duration needed to restore data post a disaster. Within this timeframe, a company must resume operations to prevent customer concerns.

Numerous parameters impact this indicator, including the quantity of virtual machines or physical hosts under backup, software considerations, the size and type of disks in use, as well as the backup storage site. Swift calculations, within seconds, are achievable with modern systems and equipment.

RTO essentially outlines the necessary actions the IT team must take to efficiently restore services and data online. In the fast-paced world of cyber threats, understanding and optimizing RTO is a critical aspect of safeguarding business continuity.

What Is RPO?

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, defines the time gap between saved backups, indicating the maximum allowable period for potential data loss without critically impacting business operations.

Consider this: if backups are scheduled every 24 hours, any new information generated within that timeframe could be lost. Modern software, however, enables backups at shorter intervals, even as frequent as every 5 minutes, reducing the RPO to 5.

All saved backups form an integral part of the backup chain, organized based on the principle of time hierarchy. To illustrate, let's take an example: If RPO equals 15 and RTO is 10, the maximum information loss would be 15 minutes, and restoration would occur within a maximum of 10 minutes.

An analogy on the road can shed light on these parameters. RTO is akin to the time needed to resume normal driving after two cars collide at an intersection. If the resulting traffic jam lasts 15 minutes, it's manageable. However, a delay exceeding an hour could significantly impact other road users, causing lateness for office, hospital appointments, or birthday parties. On the other hand, RPO represents the maximum timeframe during which unforeseen events on the road can occur without posing significant safety consequences for drivers and passengers.

Key Differences Between RTO and RPO


  • RTO: Primarily centers around ensuring service and data availability.
  • RPO: Emphasizes the frequency of backups and the permissible amount of data loss.


  • RTO: Encompasses all aspects of IT infrastructure and the backup process.
  • RPO: Focuses on evaluating the significance of data and the associated costs of backup.


  • RTO: Involves a holistic approach to building fault-tolerant infrastructure and continuous monitoring.
  • RPO: Prioritizes automation facilitated by software solutions.


  • RTO: Entails multiple variables in the process.
  • RPO: Streamlined and easier to calculate as it concentrates on a singular aspect: data.

They let you know how long you can afford to interrupt processes and how up-to-date the data will be.

Note. The shorter the RTO or RPO, the higher the cost of the process, and vice versa.

How To Calculate And Achieve Your Desired RTO

To effectively calculate and attain your desired Recovery Time Objective (RTO), follow these steps:

Identify Critical Programs and Systems:

  • Determine services that must be consistently available to clients and staff.
  • Assess the amount of data whose loss won't critically impact business operations.
  • Establish backup storage policies based on time hierarchy: daily, weekly, monthly, and annual.

Realistic Expectations:

  • Assemble a proficient IT team.
  • Invest in top-notch backup software; consider transitioning from legacy solutions to modern platforms.
  • Enhance the performance of mission-critical services.
  • Implement real-time alerts for prompt issue detection, notifying personnel through dedicated platforms and devices.
  • Develop a high-performance backup plan, strategically limiting low RTO to selected applications.

How To Calculate And Implement The Required RPO

To gauge potential data loss without significant consequences and implement the necessary Recovery Point Objective (RPO), follow these guidelines:

Determine Damage Extent:

  • Test and establish the time required to restore programs.
  • Prioritize major corporate programs, discerning what information necessitates immediate restoration versus what can wait.

Budget and Program Selection:

  • Calculate the budget allocated for utilizing a backup service.
  • Identify programs to be restored first based on criticality.

Implementation Strategies:

  • Be realistic in setting targets, ensure sufficient storage for the required backups.
  • Train staff to respond efficiently to incidents and operational failures.
  • Upgrade technology, ensuring the use of up-to-date backup tools.
  • Optimize networks to prevent overload risks that may impede backup processes.
  • Both RTO and RPO are integral in the disaster recovery process. A clear understanding enables companies to construct robust and reliable solutions, safeguarding against potential losses and damage caused by unforeseen events.
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