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What Is Recovery Point Objective (RPO)?

The maximum amount of data an organization can stand to lose after a disaster is represented by the recovery point objective (RPO). An RPO is expressed as the time between a disruptive event to the last data backup. RPO is calculated using time, which may be in hours or days, or in some cases, potentially longer. The RPO will correspond with the critical nature of the data.

How Does a Recovery Point Objective Work?

A recovery point objective can’t be decided in isolation - it needs to be weighed with the criticality of the data and the cost of the backups, and determined in tandem with a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. It only works as an objective if controls are set in place to help an organization achieve it. Disaster recovery plans should be tested to ensure backups are working properly and the RPO can be met when a real disaster occurs.

Why is Recovery Point Objective Important?

Determining the RPO that works best for your business will also help you pinpoint your recovery time objective (RTO), as well as the type of backup service you need and how frequently you need it. Forming a backup and recovery plan with the RPO in mind can help protect your organization from excessive data loss, maintain data resiliency, reduce the cost of your recovery, and improve your business continuity.

What is an Example of a Recovery Point Objective?

If a business can lose one day of data and still remain functional, its RPO is one day. Other organizations may only be able to lose one hour of their data, so their RPO would be one hour. Financial institutions, government entities, and healthcare facilities are likely to have shorter RPOs compared to retail stores, for example.

Recovery Point Objective vs. Recovery Time Objective

When planning for disaster recovery, whether in the cloud or on-premises, you should have both a recovery point objective (RPO) and a recovery time objective (RTO). The RTO represents how much time is acceptable between the point of disaster and the point of data recovery. Instead of a backward-looking figure, the RTO looks forward. If your company can afford to be down for 2 hours before experiencing substantial financial losses, your RTO may be 2 hours.

What is a Reasonable Recovery Point Objective?

What is reasonable for an RPO is going to depend on the business, how critical the data is to the overall function of the business and how much data you can afford to lose. Both RPO and RTO should be expressed as the shortest amount of time an organization can afford to lose data and be down before experiencing significant consequences. For some businesses, this might look like losing an hour of data and being down for 15 minutes. For others, it might be losing a week of data and being down for 3 days. The reasonable amount of time will vary, but must be determined by looking at the cost and importance of the data.

How do you Identify a Recovery Point Objective?

To identify the right RPO for your business, you need to follow these steps:

  • Identify what data is critical: What intellectual property, customer data, or sensitive health and financial data is essential to keeping your business going?
  • Decide what can be lost: From there, determine what amount of data can be lost with minimal penalty.
  • Declare the RPO: As soon as the data loss becomes unacceptable, you’ve found your set point. Set that as the maximum amount of time that can occur between backup points.
  • Add a backup solution: Incorporate a backup solution into your organization that helps you achieve this RPO by backing up data in frequent enough intervals.

How TierPoint Can Help You Determine Your Recovery Point Objective

Disaster recovery planning includes many parts working together to ensure business continuity, including an RPO. If you’re not sure where to start, TierPoint offers disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), a full suite of services geared to help you prepare for whatever comes your way.

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