What is RPO?
There are many important elements within any business continuity strategy, but the majority of experts will argue that recovery point objective (RPO) is one of the most vital components. When developing disaster recovery plans, this important metric, which indicates the level of data loss (measured in time) that a company is willing to accept when disaster strikes, must be included.
More specifically, RPO is the maximum acceptable number of hours of lost data in case of a critical event. For example, if the RPO for an accounting system is four hours, then IT teams will work to bring the application data to the same state it was in no more than four hours before the outage took place. Any information generated or modified during that time will either be deemed irretrievable, or will need to be re-entered.
In a recent teleconference on benchmarking disaster recovery management readiness, leading industry analyst firm Gartner indicated that the definition, documentation, and updating of RPO requirements for production applications were needed steps “in order to improve disaster recovery predictability, effectiveness, and efficiency”.
RPO should be based on many factors, including the nature and importance of the business process and related systems impacted. For example, a company may set a stringent (low) RPO for customer relationship management (CRM) applications that facilitate mission-critical sales and service activities, and a less demanding (higher) one for less crucial applications, like inventory management. Other factors are the human resources required to support recovery efforts, and the IT budgets available to cover associated costs.
While an RPO of zero hours (meaning, no lost data) may sound ideal, for most businesses that goal is both unrealistic and cost-prohibitive. And, in many cases, particularly systems that process a low volume of transactions or support non-critical activities, an RPO of zero is simply unnecessary. The goal of RPO should be to balance cost with protection level. Once RPO is determined, IT departments can then implement the appropriate protection measures, such as setting up back up, snapshots, and replication based on the RPO for each system.
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