Although a recent survey shows that only half of North American firms rely on continuous data protection to safeguard changes to corporate information, companies need it “to stay in business,” as one analyst puts it.CDP lets companies constantly backup changes made to their corporate data, and recover information lost during events such as a virus infection or natural disaster like a hurricane.
“CDP allows you to roll back to the instant before the corruption” and rebuild those data sets, says Rick Walsworth, vice-president of marketing at Kashya Inc., a CDP vendor based in San Jose, Calif.
“Business continuity means that you don’t want to be down for more than a few minutes,” adds Farid Neema, president and senior analyst of Peripheral Concepts Inc. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The frequency of backups depends on factors like the size of the company, the volume of daily transactions being performed and the value of this data.
Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates of Atascadero, Calif., says a brokerage firm, for example, would opt for frequent recordings of data because of the enormous amounts of money associated with these dealings. “You’re probably willing to pay more to do that.”
In the U.S., regulatory bodies ordering financial services companies to protect their remote and local networks have contributed to the increasing popularity of CDP, Walsworth says.
The federal government and manufacturing companies have also expressed interest.
Coughlin Associates and Peripheral Concepts last September surveyed 130 firms on CDP, an overview of which is scheduled for publication this month. The margin of error varied from question to question, but is generally within 10 per cent.
Their joint research showed that 55 per cent of firms used CDP. Of these, the majority cited reasons such as improving recovery time (44 per cent) and dealing with liability or compliance issues (29 per cent). Nineteen per cent said they wanted to be able to recover more up-to-date data. Six per cent said CDP came with their systems.
“Traditional back-up is relatively slow and not very reliable,” Neema says, referring to disks. “This is one step beyond that. You don’t wait for tape to rewind, and you can recover practically immediately.”
During a tape back-up, a company may have completed its last back-up at 10 the previous night, but a corruption occurring at midnight the following day means the organization may lose several hours of data, Walsworth says.
He says another traditional option, snapshot technology, provides a mirrored copy of a database every two hours. This, however, may be costly, considering 12 snapshots equaling 12 terabytes of data may be taken over 24 hours.
“That’s half a million dollars times 12. That’s why this is becoming a big problem for IT administrators trying to manage large volumes of data.”
Walsworth says because firms no longer need several copies of data while using CDP, it could save a small firm $100,000 a year, while larger organizations could save several million per year. Yet analysts argue CDP doesn’t replace the need for conducting a complete back-up, which may have to be done anywhere from from once a week to every two months.
On the downside, CDP does mean companies must contend with another layer of operations, says Coughlin. “I think the main thing might be if you’re keeping all the snapshots, you might argue it’s not an efficient use of storage.”
Vendors offering CDP include Symantec, Lasso Logic, LiveVault, Mimosa, StoneFly and FalconStor.
Among these, file-based CDP captures file system data and metadata, such as file creation and modification, says Neema. Block-based CDP operates at a general block level, capturing copies of a block as it is written and storing it in an independent location.
Walsworth says local CDP solutions need a 2 Gigabit-per-second Fiber Channel infrastructure of between the servers and storage because protection is limited to within the data centre.
For remote data protection that typically involves separate replication technology, he says, traditional storage solutions most often require a dedicated optical link to connect the data centre to the remote site.
Kashya says it can provide recovery of data related to both a specific date and event, whereas competitors offer only protection of information tied to a date. So, for instance, a company can mark a specific event such as the completion of its most recent financial quarter “in case two months later you’re audited,” Walsworth says, adding traditional time-based CDP cannot assure companies that rolling back to a certain point will mean the database will be consistent.

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