on the scope of the outage and the availability of recovery teams
and hardware, but could require from several hours up to several
days or more.
Returning to the title’s question, of course the answer is “no”
in a definitional sense. RTO and MAD are different concepts
which address different requirements, although their numeric
values may be similar in many cases.
As has been shown, the maximum allowable downtime and
the recovery time objective for highly resilient capabilities
can, and often will differ considerably. An inverse relationship
can develop as resilience increases. A short duration MAD can
“peacefully coexist” with a long duration RTO, because the RTO
applies only to one the production site (at a time), not to the
capability as a whole.
The business requirements which forge a maximum allowable downtime typically have little flexibility. Unlike RTO,
MAD and can be determined subjectively, without regard to
feasibility. As the DRJ’s “Generally Accepted Practice” document states, “A BIA tool [or process] should never force an
RTO.” The next four paragraphs augment the argument to avoid
mandated RTO values.
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Recovery time objective’s flexibility to increase in duration grows as its capability’s resilience level increases. In the
highest segment of the resilience spectrum, the need for RTO
could disappear altogether. At that level of resilience, there
is less need to maintain a separate recovery environment for
a single site outage. The affected instance can be rebuilt on
the original production site. RTO is not applicable, as RTO
describes activity which occurs in a recovery environment.
This restoration duration could be better described as a rebuild
Like other aspects of organizations, RTOs should be “
right-sized.” Urgency often correlates to expense, particularly if a
vendor is supplying the recovery product or service. Where high
resilience provides some breathing room in reducing the urgency
of RTO without increasing risk, organizations should accept the
cost savings of that approach.
A RTO should not be arbitrarily long. If the feasibility is the
same between shorter and longer RTO options, the selected RTO
should be the shorter one. In the commotion of a disaster, it is
easier to delay a group’s recovery than it is to hasten it.
Recovery time objective cannot be unrealistically short for
business functions. People must relocate and regain access to
their supporting technology or equipment, which may need to be
re-installed, replaced or rebuilt.
If organizations prioritize their capabilities, alignment by
maximum allowable downtime will always produce a logical order of importance. Indeed, it is the only approach if the
organization possesses highly resilient capabilities. The varying relationship between RTO and MAD at different resilience
levels makes RTO an unreliable measure. Prioritization based on
recovery time objective when an organization possesses highly
resilient capabilities, will yield a skewed, and perhaps inverted,
Capability resilience level is an equally unreliable basis for
prioritization, particularly for highly dispersed functions which
may not be critical to the organization. However, CRL can help
clarify priority between capabilities which have equal MAD
values. Higher priority (of recovery) should be assigned to capabilities with lower resilience levels.
RTO (by itself) is not a meaningful statistic to disclose to outside parties, as its significance is made clear only in the context
of MAD and CRL. CRL is a more valuable measure to disclose, if an organization wishes to publicize the resilience of its
capabilities. CRL has the added benefit of not directly disclosing
priority. CRL could become a competitive advantage when its
customers truly value availability.
Recovery time objectives can resemble maximum allowable
downtimes, and often closely align to them in less resilient situations. For highly resilient capabilities, RTO and MAD values
should diverge. Capability resilience levels rationalize the
relationship between RTO and MAD.
Frank Lady ( email@example.com) is a senior vice president of business
continuity at Bank of America. Lady is a past member of the DRJ Editorial
Advisory Board, and serves periodically as an associate faculty member at
the University of Phoenix’s Sperling School of Business. The author appreciates and has incorporated suggested refinements from these colleagues:
Gary McKay, Tom Betzel, Jeff Hansen, Colleen Huber and Eric Peterson.