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6 minutes read

Continuous Data Protection Explained

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
Other
6 minutes read

Modern businesses collect and rely on massive amounts of data for business operations, which means data security solutions like continuous data protection are essential. Software failure and data corruption occur from time to time. So savvy businesses understand the value of data protection. Plus, they know recovering data is a much simpler task when a protection system is in place. 

There are several different options enterprises have when it comes to data protection. This post will explore the HiTech innovation known as continuous data protection or continuous backup. We will explain what continuous backup is, the two common data protection variations associated with it, and explore its pros and cons. 

What is Continuous Data Protection? 

Continuous data protection (CDP) is a system that backs up all enterprise data every time a change is made to any data in the system. These data protection systems keep an ongoing record of all changes made to the data. As a result, a continuous data protection system gives enterprises the ability to restore their data to any previous point in time. 

A typical data loss issue many businesses that collect large amounts of data face is the backup window. Sometimes data created between two scheduled system backups, the backup window, will be lost. Continuous data protection software solves the data loss problem created by the backup window. 

Additionally, a CDP system offers businesses a high degree of data immunity from malware, ransomware, and other threats such as sabotage or accidental deletion. Some industries have strict data protection regulations and require businesses to use a continuous backup system to ensure compliance. 

How Does CDP Work? 

Before the introduction of continuous data protection, organizations would back up their data every night on tape. However, businesses soon found that the amount of data they needed to back up had outgrown the capabilities of tape. As a result, continuous data protection software was introduced to move away from tape-based storage to physical disk storage. 

CDP software works by using changed block tracking. First, an initial copy of the data is created and stored internally in the business’s data center. Then, whenever data is changed or added, changed block tracking backs up the newly created or modified data. 

The way most modern continuous data protection platforms work now is through incremental forever backups. Only new or modified data gets backed up after an initial copy of the data is written to physical disk storage. The incremental forever backup approach allows organizations to restore their data to how it existed at any point in time after the initial copy was made. 

Variations on Continuous Protection 

There are two types of CDP, near-continuous data protection and true continuous data protection. True continuous data protection backs up data every time there is a change. Choosing true CDP solutions allows businesses to reduce their Recovery Point Objective (RPO) to zero. 

Recovery Point Objective is a figure used to express the maximum amount of data loss, as measured by time, that a business can sustain after a disaster or hack, etc. For example, an RPO of 120 would require a data backup every two hours. RPO is important when discussing near-continuous data protection. 

Near CDP does not make a backup after every change or data entry. Instead, near CDP systems run frequent scheduled backups. The RPO associated with this option will depend on the intervals between scheduled backups. Typically, most near CDP systems will make backups anywhere from every 30 seconds to every 15 minutes. 

The Pros and Cons of Continuous Backups 

Continuous data protection can offer organizations peace of mind, especially when handling large amounts of data or working on large app development projects. Still, there are challenges associated with CDP too. So let’s review the pros and cons below. 

The Pros of CDP 

Data loss can be very costly and damage your brand image and reputation. There are many benefits to continuous data protection, including: 

  • Recording every data transaction 
  • Eliminating or significantly reducing the backup window
  • Version control 
  • Scalable
  • Quick recovery after disaster or cyberattack 

It can be challenging to recover data after a disaster. While recovering data in the event of a disaster is one of the primary selling points of continuous data protection software, preserving records of every data transaction and version control are two of the most practical daily uses for CDP

For example, many organizations use data transaction records for auditing their processes and remaining compliant with industry regulations. Transaction records are also valuable forensic evidence in the event of a security breach. 

Furthermore, version control gives teams the ability to collaborate on a project and quickly roll back changes if they must. App development teams and other teams working on large collaborative projects benefit significantly from tracking changes and restoring past versions. 

The Cons of CDP

The pros outweigh the cons of continuous backup, but it is important to understand some of the associated drawbacks to make an educated decision for your business. The main disadvantages of CDP include: 

  • Cost
  • Increased load on data resources
  • Potential single point of failure 

Continuous data protection is an excellent measure for business continuity. However, CDP can be cost-prohibitive for small businesses. Additionally, since new data entries and changes are updated immediately, doubling your data transactions puts an increased strain on data resources and can lead to performance and stability issues. 

Finally, if your CDP system is not configured correctly, it could become a single point of failure for your business. If your operations and web services rely on a database, make sure you take the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of creating a single point of failure. Typically, continuous data protection servers are housed on-site in a data center. However, most businesses elect to back up their server on the cloud or a secondary backup data center. 

Final Thoughts 

Modern businesses not only collect a large amount of data, but their web services and applications rely on data as well. CDP solutions ensure that data can be quickly recovered if something goes wrong. You never know when you will need data protection. Take steps to secure your data now. If you need help determining which continuous data protection option is right for your organization, reach out to an app development partner.

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