Second Generation Continuous Data Protection—Your Data Will Thank You

The first generation of continuous data protection relied on tape; in today’s networked world, that could be dangerous.

Continuous data protection (CDP) is the buzzword du jour in the data protection market. Recent announcements by large, brand-name vendors such Microsoft, IBM/Tivoli, and Symantec all promote their latest products as providing continuous data protection, so the market is categorizing all CDP products as "new."

CDP technologies are designed to address two major components of disaster recovery. The first is recovery time objective (RTO), which refers to the time required to fully restore your data. The second is recovery point objective (RPO)—the amount of data your business can afford to lose. With a CDP solution in place, you should be able to restore your data quickly because it is stored onsite using a disk server, thereby lessening your company’s recovery time. CDP technologies have an even greater impact on RPO—since data changes are stored continuously, you can ensure that your business loses very little, if any, data in case of certain types of disasters.

Sounds great, right? It is a great first step, but it’s not sufficient. Continuous data backup is not continuous data protection. While your data is continuously backed up to disk and you have the ability to restore that data from the local disk server, first generation CDP still relies on tape (with its manual processes, high failure-to-recover rates, and nightly operation) as the medium to store data offsite. You still need an additional solution—either automated or manual—to get these offsite tapes stored safely and remotely to truly protect data and enable recovery from a disaster.

The Need for Second Generation CDP

Simply stated, second generation CDP encapsulates the entire data protection process: continuous data backup, continuous offsite data protection, historical storage, and the ability to recover data immediately.

Continuous data backup: Second generation CDP involves backing up changes to files (which is common with first generation CDP) as well as the changes to critical data within business applications, e-mail servers, and databases.

Continuous removal of data to a secure offsite facility: Automatic offsite protection (also known as online backup, remote backup, or electronic vaulting) enables you to immediately and continuously move backup data to a secure offsite location to protect against physical loss.

The ability to recover data from a particular point in time: To get the full benefits of CDP, many point-in-time recoverable versions must be available. Whether a version is 15 minutes old or was archived 60 days or seven years ago, it must all be easily accessible for recovery whenever it’s required.

Second generation CDP solutions completely automate and integrate the entire continuous data protection process. In addition, these solutions enable you to perform a Web-based recovery to fully eliminate the opportunity for human error and the risk of physical media error or loss. The result is 100 percent recoverability of the point-in-time version you need.

Don’t End Up Like You Were Hit By a Hurricane

Imagine a site disaster caused by an event such as Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast. Many businesses there were unable to recover anything – they were wiped out. If their backup tapes were stored onsite, they’re nowhere to be found now. If they were stored locally offsite, there’s likely been some significant level of data loss. Even if they had a first generation CDP solution, that local CDP server would have been destroyed. However, if they had second generation CDP in place, and automatically backed up data to remote offsite locations, they would have the ability to restore their data to a new site and begin to rebuild and resume relatively normal business operations within a reasonable timeframe.

Getting Started

How can companies today continue to rely on a solution that is antiquated, only gets part of the job done, and is ineffective in fully protecting a business? It’s simple: tape backup was the best solution available for many years, and the first generation of CDP promised more than tape alone could deliver.

However, in today’s networked world, data—among your business’ most important assets—should not be put at risk by using a data protection solution that only focuses on backing up data and still relies on tape. With enhanced operating risks and far greater dependency on data, businesses need to consider second-generation CDP solutions that address the entire data protection process—where continuous data backup is simply a feature of the process. These new, integrated solutions almost completely eliminate data loss, and substantially accelerate recovery.

Now that you know the difference between first and second generation CDP and can easily recognize the marketing spin of the various offerings, take a look. See what’s available and what these companies’ customers are saying. Don’t settle for anything less than the continuous data protection that truly protects your business by backing up data continuously, storing it remotely offsite, archiving it, and making it available for immediate recovery. It can mean the difference between staying in business no matter what disaster befalls your company and being the next data-loss story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

About the Author

Scott Jarr is director of digital strategy at Iron Mountain Digital, a leading provider of data backup/recovery and archiving software as a service. Jarr has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and an MBA from the University of South Florida.