Data Backup Basics IX: Extending Backup Measurements - Understanding RTO and RTA

  • 22 February 2024
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Author’s note:
This article is an extension to the fifth part of this series: Data Backup Basics V - Understanding RPO and RTO

 

Imagine the scenario: the hard disks or SSDs in the storage system housing your organization's critical virtual machines have failed, leaving a lot of business-critical virtual computers non-operational. Fortunately, you maintain daily, comprehensive backups, theoretically enabling prompt recovery. But is this the reality?

 

To effectively gauge the efficacy of your disaster recovery plan, two key metrics come into play: the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the Recovery Time Actual (RTA).

 

The RTO delineates the target timeframe within which the affected systems must be restored to full operational status. It's a crucial aspect of business continuity planning, representing the maximum tolerable downtime for an organization. Defining this duration requires careful consideration of the organization's operational needs, criticality of systems, and potential financial implications of downtime. Documenting the RTO in the disaster recovery strategy document ensures clarity and alignment across the organization.

 

Conversely, the RTA measures the actual time taken to restore all system components and productive data to their pre-failure state, ensuring full functionality for end-users. This encompasses not only the restoration process but also subsequent activities such as system verification, monitoring, and transitioning back to productive operations.

 

Factors contributing to a prolonged RTA include

  • backup environments are designed only for the minimal amounts of data during daily backup and not for the immense amount of data during a major restore.
  • hardware limitations such as slow read rates from backup systems with sluggish hard drives
  • dependencies on other recovery activities, such as restoring network connectivity or replacing hardware components
  • distance-related delays in accessing offsite backups
  • latency issues
  • insufficient bandwidth

 

It's essential to recognize that while the declared RTO may align with organizational needs and criticality concepts, the actual time required for complete system restoration (RTA) could be significantly longer. This disjunction underscores the importance of reassessing and recalibrating disaster recovery plans to ensure they can meet the organization's evolving needs and technological landscape.

 

Have you ever truly considered what your RTA value is when faced with adversity? As IT experts responsible for crafting robust data protection solutions, it's imperative to not only establish realistic RTOs but also diligently monitor and optimize RTAs to minimize downtime and mitigate the impact of unforeseen incidents on business operations. You'll get a realistic picture of what your actual environment can really do and what parts need improvement, starting a continuous service improvement process for your backup environment and service definitions.


4 comments

Userlevel 7
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I was beginning to wonder if this next one would ever come. 😂

Great post Joe.

😎 Yes, it was a long break between the last part and this one. But I have a lot of business travel and customer meetings to do at the moment….

Well the main thing is that you posted it. 👍

We all get busy for sure. 

Userlevel 7
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I was beginning to wonder if this next one would ever come. 😂

Great post Joe.

😎 Yes, it was a long break between the last part and this one. But I have a lot of business travel and customer meetings to do at the moment….

Userlevel 7
Badge +21

I was beginning to wonder if this next one would ever come. 😂

Great post Joe.

Userlevel 7
Badge +17

Another really insightful post in your series Jochen. You don't really ever hear much about RTA. But should be something to consider. Thanks for sharing! 

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