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The ability of CDP systems to recover application data from any point in time may forever change the way critical data is protected.

Continuous data protection (CDP) is a buzz-inspiring new technology. Because CDP captures all data write changes at a file or block level, and provides running recovery journals for all historical data states, data protection shifts from a point in time to a vastly more flexible any-point-in-time framework.

The old methods of restoring individual backups from mirrors, synchronizing them in time against an archive log and then staging that data back to a live environment may soon be eclipsed by a more unified process comprising much fewer steps. For example, to execute a database recovery with CDP, you simply roll back to the correct time for the event, stage the CDP data set and allow the application to initiate its restore. Theoretically, IT managers could discard their traditional scheduled backups completely and reap significant savings in time, money and management efficiencies.

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A tale of two applications
Interest in continuous data protection (CDP) is generally related to two major application groups:

DATABASES. The vast majority of enterprise interest in CDP focuses on enhancing database recovery.

E-MAIL. The complexities associated with Microsoft Exchange recovery are turning Exchange-focused CDP into a booming new business.
So far, CDP technology has been limited to a small niche of early adopter and specialty deployments (see "A tale of two applications," at right). But CDP has an immediate and far-ranging role to play in the enterprise because it has the ability to transform application recovery.

Many enterprises deploying CDP are attempting to remedy some pronounced pain or complexity that existed in their prior recovery processes. Those processes might involve a Microsoft Exchange environment that takes three days to recover, or a top-level application that spans multiple databases and requires massive scripting to juggle rotating mirror schedules.

Most IT shops are comfortable with some level of recovery complexity, but beyond an acceptable threshold a breaking point may be reached. This may be the limitations of a given technology or the inability of the management team to handle a certain level of complexity with reliable outcomes.

This was first published in November 2005

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