The 4 “Rs” of Disaster Recovery

The 4 “Rs” of Disaster Recovery

The 4 “Rs” of Disaster Recovery

Organizations can be impacted by a natural or manmade disaster at any time. Having an effective approach to disaster recovery (DR) can help banks and credit unions meet their regulatory obligations, better protect themselves from the impact of a significant negative event and enhance their ability to bounce back and continue operating in the aftermath of a disaster.

There are four “R’s” when it comes to disaster recovery that every financial institution should focus on: Recovery Time Objective (RTO); Recovery Point Objective (RPO); Replication; and Recurring Testing. Here’s why each of them is integral to DR:


RTO, the longest acceptable length of time that a computer, system, network, or application can be down after a disaster happens, is a crucial facet of DR. Established RTOs essentially represent trade-offs, with shorter RTOs requiring more resources and ongoing expenses. When setting RTOs, prioritizations must be made based on the significance of the business function and budgetary constraints. Ideally, financial institutions will have RTOs predetermined before a disaster strikes, and the RTOs will be included in the institution’s Business Impact Analysis (BIA) as part of the business continuity planning process. Following a disaster, the recovery process will depend on the type of institution, technology solutions, and business functions as well as the amount of data involved. Institutions with an outside vendor guiding their disaster relief efforts typically have a more streamlined and less stressful recovery process.


The RPO represents the amount of time between a disaster occurring and a financial institution’s most recent backup. If too long, and too much data is allowed to be lost, it could result in substantial damage. Essentially, the RPO will be determined by the institution’s technology solution and risk tolerance. The Information Security Officer (ISO) and management must define exactly how long they are willing to go without having a copy of their data available. As banks and credit unions become more dependent on technology, however, their tolerance for not having critical functions available shrinks. Increasingly, financial institutions are turning to outside vendors to bolster their recovery solutions, but they must ensure that those third-party providers are adequately equipped to satisfy their RPO requirements.


Effective DR replication is essential because it allows an exact copy of an institution’s data to be available and remotely accessible when an adverse event happens. DR requires the duplication of data and computer processing to take place in a location not impacted by the disaster. The best practice is to have one backup onsite and another offsite in a different geographic region—somewhere that is not likely to be affected by the same disaster. Options for recovery can take various forms: fully redundant systems at alternate sites; cloud-based recovery solutions (either internally developed or outsourced); another data center; or a third-party service provider; according to the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC).

Recurring Testing

Recurring testing allows banks and credit unions to pinpoint key aspects of their DR strategy and adjust as needed to accomplish their objectives. Thorough testing of a financial institution’s core applications should be done annually — while they are functioning normally — to generate the most meaningful feedback. The institution should employ a variety of tests and exercises to verify its ability to quickly resume vital business operations in a disaster situation. Regular testing can reveal possible problems in the institution’s DR plan so that it can immediately address these issues. The aim is not necessarily to pass each test or exercise, but rather to find and fix flaws before a disaster occurs.

Read more about how your bank or credit union can be better positioned to recover from a disaster. Download our “4 Rs of Disaster Recovery” white paper.

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