Is Continuous Data Protection Best for Disaster Recovery?

The pros and cons of CDP versus traditional storage options, like tape.

Is Continuous Data Protection Best for Disaster Recovery?

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 40 percent of businesses that close down following a disaster never reopen. Of the remaining companies, at least 25 percent will close within two years.

Because of limited resources, some organizations are using less-than-optimal backup and recovery methods, and some are even dodging the issue altogether. In the event of an IT failure, the consequences can be devastating.

According to a recent national survey of small business owners by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples Inc., more than 70 percent of respondents say an IT security incident that takes business operations offline for a day would detrimentally impact their companies or put them out of business altogether.

For many organizations, data protection solutions need to be simple, reliable, and affordable while addressing the necessary compliance and security requirements. Organizations must also be capable of managing increasing amounts of data. There are many options to explore, but continuous data protection (CDP) is one that is becoming increasingly popular. CDP creates an electronic journal of complete storage snapshots — one storage snapshot for every instant in time that data modification occurs. To decide what solutions best fit your needs, consider the pros and cons of CDP vs. more traditional options such as tape-based backup.

Advantages of continuous data protection include:

  • It preserves a record of every transaction that takes place in the company.
  • If the system becomes infected with a virus or Trojan, or if a file becomes mutilated or corrupted and the problem is not discovered until some time later, it is possible to recover the most recent clean copy of the affected file.
  • It offers data recovery in a matter of seconds — much less time than tape backups or archives.

The installation of hardware and programming is straightforward and simple and does not put existing data at risk.
Disadvantages of CDP include:

  • The local disk is only updated after replicated data has been written/committed to the target disk and the corresponding acknowledgment has been sent back to the production server.
  • Performance on the production application is decreased while waiting for confirmation that the replication has occurred.
  • In the event of data corruption, the restoration process can be lengthy and contingent on network speed and file size.
  • It requires proprietary hardware that adds cost and complexity.

For a small business that has less than 1TB of data, it’s not cost-efficient to back up some data with tape and other data with a CDP service. However, if there are several servers with different degrees of importance and very large data sets, it might make sense to opt for the one-time investment in tape backup for one or two of the servers, and then use CDP on several other servers that contain more business-critical data. Another option would be to use online backup only for certain servers and CDP for others.

As with any technology you consider, it is important to weigh the benefits of CDP technologies and select what makes the most sense for their business.

Jim Lippie is president of Thrive Networks.

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