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Recovery time objective (RTO) is the maximum desired length of time allowed between an unexpected failure or disaster and the resumption of normal operations and service levels. The RTO defines the point in time after a failure or disaster at which the consequences of the interruption become unacceptable.
RTOs do not mandate recovery by a given date. The objective of the RTO may not be met, but the value of the exercise is in the anticipation and resulting pre-planning.
Determining the recovery time objective should be done as part of the business impact analysis (BIA) along with the business continuity planner. Along with the RTO, the acceptable amount of data loss measured in time, called the Recovery Point Objective (RPO), is considered. An overall business continuity plan would then include the RTO, RPO and the BIA, along with alternate strategies and workaround procedures.