Smart businesses know the value of backing up their data, but they have a lot of options when it comes to backup methods and frequency. The bottom-line goal with any data backup is to ensure that you can restore data and get operations back up and running as quickly as possible after a disruption, such as software failure or data corruption.  

As enterprises collect more and more data that must be backed up regularly, many are turning to backup solutions with continuous data protection (CDP) features to minimize data loss.   

Continuous data protection appliances capture and track every single change to a business’s data; in effect, they save all versions of the data and its changes across the enterprise. If the business needs to recover data, it can restore systems to virtually any point in time, instead of having to go back to the last saved backup—which, in the case of traditional snapshot backups, for instance, could mean hours of lost data that a continuous data protection server could have saved. 

CDP allows you to record and back up changes to virtually all of your data, from employee and customer files to application data to databases. As many enterprises have infrastructure that is hypervisor-based, continuous data protection software can also record changes to data in virtual machines. Additionally, some CDP vendors make it simple to save changes to two separate locations; for instance, one copy onsite for quick recovery and a second copy located elsewhere for robust disaster recovery needs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Continuous Data Protection

Whether you need to roll back your system to recover data from before corruption occurred or get the last clean version before a ransomware event, continuous data protection offers advantages over other methods of data backup. The primary benefit of CDP is a near-zero recovery point objective (RPO). The always-on nature of continuous data protection means your backup copy is continually up-to-date, so if you experience data loss, CDP can recover that data virtually in real-time.    

Another benefit of CDP is that it eliminates the challenges of the backup window, or the specific amount of time set aside to regularly back up data (such as overnight). Without continuous data protection, if new data is created—and then lost or corrupted—between these scheduled backup windows, it might be unrecoverable. CDP also protects against malware and ransomware, and can greatly minimize the risks of deliberate sabotage or data deleted by accident. 

Continuous data protection isn’t the end-all, be-all of backup, however. It does bring with it a number of challenges to consider. First of all, it requires physical disk storage that offers fast performance and therefore can raise costs. As the data is stored on a server, that server could be a single point of failure. It’s critical to ensure high data availability to counteract that risk. Finally, CDP puts increased pressure on your data resources. Because every change or bit of new data is saved to backup in real-time, your data throughput is essentially doubled—which could potentially affect system stability or performance.

How It Works

After creating an initial full backup of your data, continuous data protection operates in the background, making note of every subsequent change within a specified time frame and storing it in a journal file. By recording all the changes up to a failure, you’ll be able to review the log and easily roll your system back to the point you desire.  

The automatic, continual recording of changes gives you the flexibility of recovering data to a much more granular degree than other backup methods that restore to a previous point in time.  

Some vendors offer products with near-continuous data protection, such as Microsoft. Continuous data protection features in the Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, for example, operate much like snapshot backups and don’t deliver true hypervisor based  continuous data protection.

Get True Continuous Data Protection for VMware with Rubrik

Rubrik offers powerful continuous data protection designed especially for your VMware environments. It boosts data resiliency by giving you the ability to recover your VMs from previous points in time, up to a maximum of four hours before. Because continuous data protection is built into the same Rubrik data management platform that provides backup, replication, and disaster recovery orchestration, there’s nothing extra to manage or license.

Learn more about how Rubrik makes data backup and recovery simple and seamless with continuous data protection

Frequently Asked Questions