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What Is Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

A recovery time objective (RTO) describes how much time, at maximum, an organization can spare after a disaster before resuming normal business operations. This is usually described in hours or days. For example, an RTO of one day means that a business can go one day without critical systems before experiencing substantial consequences.

How Does Recovery Time Objective Work?

Determining an RTO isn’t a solitary project. Instead, it’s decided alongside a recovery point objective (RPO) and requires a solid understanding of the systems and workloads that are necessary for business operations. A business can’t achieve an RTO without the appropriate tools and controls in place. Ensuring certain redundancies are created, as well as developing a disaster recovery plan with continuous replication, are ways businesses can work to meet the RTOs they set.
Companies should take the time to determine their RTO based on the amount of time it is reasonable for their business operations to be down, until the point where they start to experience these consequences. The IT department should consult with senior management and other key stakeholders to establish the priority and criticality of their systems.

Why is Recovery Time Objective Important?

It's important for an organization to form a recovery time objective because failing to do so can have substantial consequences for revenue, business resiliency, and trust, both internally and externally. Planning is essential. The goal is to avoid find your RTO limits during a disaster or outage without a backup plan in place.

Taking the time to identify which systems and workloads are most critical to the business, allows you to meet recovery time objectives

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 Time Objective vs Recovery Point Objective?

While they work together in disaster recovery and business continuity planning, a recovery point objective (RPO) is concerned with the amount of data that can be lost leading up to a restore point without major consequence to the business, whereas an RTO is focused on the time it takes post-disaster for a business to restore their critical systems. For example, an RPO of 1 hour means a business can lose up to 1 hour of data. An RTO of 1 hour means an organization needs to restore their systems within an hour post-disruption.

What is a Reasonable Recovery Time Objective?

A reasonable RTO depends on the nature of the business and what is mission-critical to keep operations going, as well as the potential impact downtime has on the business. For some, this may be minutes, other businesses may be able to go a few days or longer being able to operate fairly normally. Your RTO will be set based on a variety of factors and should be tailored to your business.

How do you Identify a Recovery Time Objectives?

To identify the proper RTO for your business, consider the following:

  • What is truly critical to your business: For each system or workload, what can you live without, and what needs to be operational as soon as possible?
  • What the impact of downtime has on your organization: Calculate how much downtime costs your business on an hourly or daily basis. Is this a loss you can afford? At what point does that loss become hard to come back from?
  • Decide on the RTO: The maximum amount of downtime before significant consequences occur is how you should decide your RTO.
  • Set up measures to meet your RTO: Developing a disaster recovery plan, having redundancies for your data and systems, and creating and regularly testing backup and recovery solutions can help you meet your RTO, as well as confirm you will continue to be able to meet it when a disaster happens.

How TierPoint Can Help You Determine a Recovery Time Objective

Determining a recovery time objective is part of larger disaster recovery planning and business continuity projects. It is an important piece of the puzzle, but shouldn’t often be done on its own.


If you need to develop your disaster recovery plan and feel overwhelmed, TierPoint can help. We provide Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), designed to prepare your business for natural disasters, cybersecurity attacks, and human error, so you can feel better prepared and confident today.

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Meet your RTO and other business continuity objectives today!