What Is a Recovery Point Objective? (Plus How-to Calculate)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 21, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many companies use digital data and computers to conduct business and store records. It's essential for a business to safeguard digital content, and there are several IT systems tech professionals can leverage to protect important information. One of these systems is a recovery point objective, and learning more about it can help you protect data and develop your professional abilities in IT or business development. In this article, we discuss RPO, outline how to calculate it, highlight essential elements of a disaster recovery plan, provide an example of RPO, and answer related frequently asked questions.

What is a recovery point objective?

A recovery point objective (RPO) measures the time from when a system failure, loss-causing event, or disaster takes place. This can be a power outage, data corruption event, ransomware attack, or user error. The RPO returns the system to a previous point when the company's data existed in a usable form, typically a backup or a recent save. Database administrators in companies generally set the period in which data loss is acceptable or doesn't cause extreme harm, programming an RPO accordingly. For example, RPOs that a company designates for an hour require a continuous save every hour.

RPOs commonly pair with recovery time objectives (RTO). This is the projected time before a company's operations can become regular after a data event. These metrics help companies prepare for disaster recovery together, including remaining operational after an event or throughout. Computer programs employing RTO and RPO commonly ensure that they replicate essential data and store them properly, granting instant access when necessary. Companies may set different RPOs for multiple components of the business. For example, electronic platforms like e-mail servers, finance systems, customer relationship management systems, printer servers, directory servers, and file servers may have unique settings.

Related: How to Learn Data Science (A Complete Guide)

How to calculate RPOs

Here are some steps to follow when determining RPO for a business:

1. Check how frequently the files update

You can set an RPO to match your file update frequency as it ensures that your most updated information remains retrievable. For example, setting an RPO for every half hour if you have digital transactions and files that update every 30 minutes is advisable. This helps ensure you can consistently access recent information with low data loss. Conversely, a weekly backup saves every Saturday night means a week's worth of data loss if there's a system failure on Saturday afternoon. Constantly reviewing your file update times can help you determine when changing the RPO becomes necessary.

2. Review the company's business continuity plan goals

RPOs commonly support a company's business continuity plan (BCP) goals. This necessitates carefully reviewing each element to determine distinct RPOs of several time allotments for every business unit. This determination is usually upon the information the company stores and the critical nature of experiencing a data loss. For example, a national bank's critical data processes and financial transactions are essential, requiring shorter RPO times. Conversely, the human resource documents of personnel records can sustain a longer RPO time, subsequently requiring a less frequent update cycle.

3. Consider industry standards

Institutions may have distinct RPO requirements, but you can consider industry standards to guide you when calculating RPOs for a company's business units. For example, zero to one hour is the shortest period for vital operational elements that can't lose an hour of data. Data like this includes patient records, online banking transactions, or stock market activities. The one to four-hour timeframe is for semi-critical business units with only minor acceptable data loss. This includes customer online chat logs, social media records, or file servers.

Companies with business units that store data regarding marketing and advertising, sales, and operational or sales statistics can employ the four to 12-hour RPO timeframe. These units scarcely affect a company's business gravely upon a data disaster. Similarly, business units that store purchase orders, personnel files, or inventory control can employ even longer RPOs. Some of these units employ RPOs timeframes of 13 to 24 hours. Several companies employ any of the above general RPO period guidelines, depending on size or purpose.

4. Create and approve each RPO

The next step is establishing the RPOs and having the database administration team approve and implement them. This is after accounting for all the relevant concerns for every data management element. Properly documenting the process and storing the records can help you refer to it as a baseline when reviewing or adjusting the RPOs. You may observe existing RPO procedures and processes or assist in establishing them, depending on your role in the company.

Related: Defining Roles and Responsibilities

5. Analyze your RPO settings regularly

A company's RPO generally changes over time, especially as the company grows or develops new business continuity goals. This necessitates reviewing and analyzing your RPOs routinely and frequently to determine whether they require adjustments. For example, a company may create a team to perform an in-depth review of how its RPOs performed during a data event. This can help the company get essential insights into its data management system.

Essential elements of a disaster recovery plan

Here are some of the essential features of an excellent disaster recovery plan:

Thorough IT assessment and inventory

It's essential to conduct a thorough IT asset inventory before beginning a reliable data recovery plan. This includes on-site software and hardware and the entire cloud-based services and systems that a company's business operations depend on for functionality. The organization's IT provider generally conducts the risk analysis and assessment. Disaster recovery plan assessments may take a while, depending on the company's size and business process complexity.

IT backup management strategy

The formal approach generation process during disaster recovery planning starts when an IT engineer examines the assessment information. They then evaluate it to learn what tools and tactics they require for the company's circumstances and business operations. An internal recovery site may be suitable for the recovery strategy if the organizations have considerable information and essential recovery time requirements.

Employee training

It's essential that the top management in an organization uphold the disaster recovery approach before the entire company adopts it. Likewise, it's essential that each organization's management and staff member understand their responsibilities. This necessitates training employees in their individual roles in the event of a data disaster and cybersecurity awareness.

Related: The Importance of Employee Training and Development

Disaster response teams

An essential approach for a disaster recovery plan is having a stand-by emergency response group that determines the extent of the disaster recovery plan's invocation. This team assembles and contacts the disaster response team, which includes the IT specialists and other staff members involved in business recovery. It's vital to build and assess the plan with disruption rehearsals to have the relevant staff give practical disaster response examples.

Consider the appropriate metrics during disaster recovery plans

Some necessary discussions when setting up a disaster recovery plan include what the recovery time objective is and the desired RPO. It's also essential to discuss how the team can quickly transition from the disaster to the recovery solution. These questions necessitate discussions about benefits versus costs regarding the disaster recovery plan.

Example of an RPO

Here's an example of an RPO:

A large e-commerce website with different servers for various functions sets RPOs based on the particular uses and the data it stores. Some sectors of its data management system require consistent replication rather than daily or weekly backups because the website runs internationally, with sales occurring 24/7. For example, executives might designate the one-minute RPOs for payment gateways, e-mail servers, inventory stock levels, confirmation logs, and shipping databases. They employ one-hour RPOs for customer data, website interface, user password authentication, and product dashboards.

Similarly, its customer chat logs, content creation database, and customer reviews leverage 24-hour RPOs. The e-commerce business's vital information reverts to the most immediate and updated information after a significant data event as it saves every 60 seconds. Slightly less essential information such as customer product reviews that the website posts just before the event may disappear. Nevertheless, the data existing the day prior may remain because the team set that specific RPO for 24-hours.

Frequently asked questions about RPO

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about RPOs:

What are the factors that influence RPOs?

Here are some of the factors that companies consider when creating RPOs:

  • Industry storage guidelines and regulations primarily for healthcare or financial fields

  • Excellent tolerance for operational impact and organizational data loss

  • Compliance requirements, including data availability and access and disaster mitigation

  • Data recovery speed requirements, which can vary between physical files or cloud technology

  • Financial requirements of both establishing and implementing an RPO and the probable loss from affected operations or lost data

Related: Top Data Scientist Interview Questions With Sample Answers

What is the importance of RPO?

RPOs are essential because they can considerably impact an organization's operation and finances. For example, a six-hour RPO across a company's systems may lose about six hours' worth of data if it experiences a debilitating digital event. This is because the company can only recover saved material from six hours ago at the earliest.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles