A Look at Server Recovery Time Objectives

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This article looks at server recovery, which is useful information for determining a business’s recovery time objective (RTO). RTOs are a useful business metric and an early step towards creating a fully-fleshed disaster recovery plan.

There’s an awful lot to consider when thinking about your RTO, and it’s important to realize that an RTO doesn’t refer to how quickly you can recover, but how quickly you absolutely need to recover based on your company’s level of tolerance to downtime. When it comes to equipment failure and recovery, you’ve ultimately got to determine how long you can be without various pieces of equipment before your company starts losing money. Some can bear a few hours but others (like those in the medical field) can only be down a few minutes, or really can’t be down at all. With that in mind, you need to look at how quickly you can recover so that you know whether or not your abilities meet your needs.

Also important to remember is that it’s difficult to say precisely what a good RTO is for your equipment. Different businesses have different systems and larger businesses have multiple servers running simultaneously. Plus, as you know, there are dozens of different things that can go wrong when it comes to computer systems, hardware and software. You’ll have to think about your unique requirements and resources to determine your RTO.

Similarly, think about the fact that your RTO can’t change based on the size of disaster because regardless of what happens, there’s only a certain amount of downtime a business can stand. You may still find it useful to determine different RTOs for different pieces of equipment based on how critical each one is to the operation. If you do experience failure, it will more likely be one server rather than a few at once (barring large site-destroying events), so you’ve got to know how long you can afford to be without each piece of equipment, and you’ve got to decide which pieces of equipment you need to recover first if there’s a large site-destroying event.

Now, you’ll likely have backups as part of your recovery plan, but there’s more. You’ll have to think about exactly what you’re planning for. Do you expect to experience full failure? Failure of a few Exchange mailboxes? Complete site destruction? Is one of your two servers down? Experts recommend trying to plan for as many scenarios as you can. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down, so try and expect the unexpected.

You might have more than one server so ask yourself: how many servers are running? About how much data do you have collectively? What type of speedy recovery solutions do you have in place? How fast can you feasibly transfer data from one unit to another for failover? Do you even have extra hardware for failover? You need to know about how much data you’ve got and where that data will need to be recovered to once you’ve backed it all up—you’ll struggle if you’ve got failover equipment without enough storage space to handle the data.

When planning for full site destruction, you’ll also need to know where you’ll recover. The alley next to Burger King might have an outlet and wi-fi, but it’s probably nowhere you can really do business. Do you need to prepare a secondary emergency work site or will you have much bigger things to worry about?

The bigger the disaster, the more data you have, and the larger your network, the more time it’s going to take. Be realistic when determining your RTO, plan for a few hiccups and allocate more space on fail-over equipment than you think you need, just in case. There are really a lot of factors that affect how quickly you can recover but if you’re vigilant about planning, you’ll be ready for most of them.


Casey Morgan is the marketing content specialist at StorageCraft. U of U graduate and lover of words, his experience lies in construction and writing, but his approach to both is the same: start with a firm foundation, build a quality structure, and then throw in some style. If he’s not arguing about comma usage or reading, you'll likely find him and his Labrador hiking, biking, or playing outdoors -- he's even known to strum a few chords by the campfire. Casey.Morgan@storagecraft.com

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