Arcserve would like to welcome Vaclav Vincalek, the President of PCIS, as a guest contributor on our blog. Vaclav contributes articles to various business and technology publications. His specialty includes vision and strategic planning, business consulting, technology trends analysis, business development, client relationship management and media relations.


Could you recognize which word is from Star Wars and which one is an IT term?

If you want to be hip among Star Wars fans, quickly Google the terms, rent any of the Star Wars movies (the first three are of course much better), and try to memorize a few key-lines. You’ll be able to insert yourself into a few conversations during geek parties.

However, if you are an IT pro and the terms RTO/RPO are still foreign to you, you have major deficiencies in your knowledge and understanding the role of IT within your company. Stop reading here and quickly go and study.

Perhaps, you are the CEO or CFO (the person that manages risk for your

company) and have become curious as to why these two terms are so important to your organization; and more importantly, why you should care. Let’s start with short description:

– RTO = Recovery Time Objective

– RPO = Recovery Point Objective

The first one tells you how long it will take your system (email, ERP, CRM, SharePoint, etc.) after the crash to become operational again. The term ‘crash’ could mean anything from an application has stopped responding, where a simple re-start will remedy the problem. A crash could also mean a disk failure, where you have to put in a new disk and restore the data. Or, it could be a complete server meltdown, and you are forced to get a new server and rebuild everything from scratch.

Ask yourself how long you can be without any of the systems, which one you are currently using and which one would stop you from performing your work duties? As you can imagine, the answer will change throughout your organization based on the role and function. What may be important to you is not for the other and vice versa.

The second term (RPO) tells you how much data you are willing to lose at any given time. In simple terms, you can ask yourself, if your email system goes down, how many received emails, since last time you ran a backup, are you are willing to lose and never recover?

In some instances, the only thing you have to do is to re-enter the information again. However, in some cases, you will lose everything.

Many organizations are running backups and they will proudly tell you that they do a nightly backup. They do a full backup on Sunday night and then follow suit with incremental backups throughout the week. That’s nice, but you can suddenly see that none of the critical business issues stated above have been address within their strategy. What’s worse, is that you are led to believe that everything is fine. If you accept the fact that you can lose up to 23 hours and 59 minutes of data; and if you don’t care how long it will take to restore operation after the crash, then you are definitely fine.

There are many IT people performing backups. There are fewer who can restore a system. And there are very few who can guarantee a recovery on time. If you are an IT professional and are part of the last group, make sure your CEO knows this. They will really appreciate it. Guaranteed. If you are a CEO, ask your IT guys about RTO and RPO. And, if you get the nonsense mumbling which is closer sounding to C-3PO, you know it is time to call the HR department.