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RPO, RTO AND MTO: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

By the DynaSis Team

The technology world is filled with inscrutable acronyms, but two that seem to really confuse our customers are RPO or RTO – Recovery Point Objective versus Recovery Time Objective. Both metrics are crucial to data and system backup and recovery – and by correlation, to business continuity. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly given the confusion, business owners often don’t realize the importance of these two KPIs (key performance indicators) until their company has lost business or been placed at risk after a system outage.

When firms contract for backup or disaster recovery/business continuity services, they may assume their provider’s recommendation will meet their levels of risk. They may not ask the right questions to ensure sufficient protection. In reality, the level of data loss tolerance after a technology outage varies from company to company, and even from department to department within a single firm. There are ways to address these differences, but the time to consider them is before an outage, not afterward.

To get started, let’s explore these acronyms and why they are absolutely crucial for business survival. To the list we will also add MTO (Maximum Tolerable Outage), a less-commonly used KPI that is perhaps the most important of all.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO): This number reflects your goal for how quickly you would like to restore access to corporate data, applications, email and other IT systems after an outage. Could you wait a week and not suffer business losses or damage to your corporate reputation? Alternately, would you prefer to give personnel instant access to applications, data and email, perhaps through a secure portal on a computer or mobile device? Perhaps your level of risk tolerance lies somewhere in between?

Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This figure reflects the most recent point to which company data and applications would be restored after a data or system disruption or failure. Backup and disaster recovery solutions create periodic “snapshots” – mirror images of the assets being monitored by the solution. The most advanced systems take snapshots every few seconds, while others take them every few minutes, every hour, daily or even weekly. In the event of an irrevocable server or system crash, that lapse after the last snapshot is the amount of data you would lose forever.

Maximum Tolerable Outage (MTO): This KPI indicates the longest amount of time your business could be disrupted by loss of access to your data, email and applications before it would constitute a “disaster” for your business operations. Calculating your MTO is the first step in determining your data loss tolerance. Many business owners are surprised when they honestly consider this issue and realize how short of an outage their business could tolerate.

Calculating these metrics — called a Business Impact Analysis — is beyond the scope of this article, but we will discuss that process in the future. Many firms discover there is no “magic number” that will suit the entire organization. A company might be able to survive without a week’s worth of payroll data but wish to retain as many email messages and customer purchase orders as possible.

Fortunately, there are solutions that can accommodate different RPOs and RTOs within the same organization. Technology providers such as DynaSis have the tools and expertise to help business decision makers calculate their data loss tolerance accurately and eliminate unpleasant surprises when an outage occurs.

About DynaSis
DynaSis is an Atlanta IT services and cloud computing provider for small and midsized businesses. All of our solutions focus on helping companies achieve the three fundamental IT necessities of the modern business—availability, security and mobility. We specialize in on-demand and on-premise managed IT services, managed cloud infrastructure, desktops and backups, and professional hardware and equipment installation. For more information about DynaSis’ IT support and services, visit


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