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Going back in time to save your data

Shane O'Neill

Who among us would not like to travel back in time? Think of the possibilities. But short of a colossal scientific breakthrough, human time travel is not likely to happen. But the people at Revivio Inc. have developed something close: data time travel.

Revivio, a three-year-old company located in Lexington, Mass., aims to ease the pain of searching through backup tapes or mounting old snapshots with its continuous protection system (CPS), which instantly accesses data as it existed at any point in the past.

"This is not a snapshot technology, where typically you'd do one or two a day," said Kirby Wadsworth, Revivio senior vice president of marketing and business development. "With this appliance, you set and forget."

Metaphorically speaking, Wadsworth said snapshots are like a camera set to take pictures periodically, whereas the Revivio CPS is like a video camera always running.

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If all else was equal and you took away the price, of course everyone would want this technology. But most companies can't afford it, and many don't trust it quite yet.
Arun Taneja
Consulting analyst and founderTaneja Group, Hopkinton, Mass.

The Revivio appliance, which began shipping last January, works by being plugged into a storage area network (SAN). It immediately begins observing data passing between servers and storage devices, storing old data blocks at the time they are overwritten and then storing the new data.

If a hacker or virus corrupts all your data at, say, 2:30 p.m., an administrator can ask the Revivio appliance for the data as it existed at 2:29 p.m. The appliance will present a new set of virtual disks containing the 2:29 p.m. data, which can be instantly restored and used to restart business applications.

According to Arun Taneja, consulting analyst and founder of the Taneja Group, Hopkinton, Mass., continuous data protection is an important technology, but is also expensive and mostly unproven. "If all else was equal and you took away the price, of course everyone would want this technology," said Taneja. "But most companies can't afford it, and many don't trust it quite yet." Taneja mentioned startups such as Mendicino Software, Fremont, Calif., Alacritis Software, Pleasanton, Calif. and XOsoft, Burlington, Mass. as other emerging companies in the continuous data protection space.

Michael Smith, general manager of operations at news Web site Forbes.com, implemented the Revivio CPS as a way to avoid disaster. The two critical servers that run Forbes' site are its publishing server and advertising server. Needless to say, both must be operating 24/7. Before purchasing the Revivio product, Smith was restoring the applications from tape if data was corrupted or the servers went down.

"People who read our site and get our newsletters and breaking news alerts are business leaders of the world," said Smith. "We couldn't afford the time it took to reinstall applications from tape."

Forbes.com has had the Revivio CPS since February 2004, and did vigorous testing before the purchase.

"We disabled our primary servers and the Revivio product was flawless," said Smith. So far, Smith has not needed to do a real life data restore. "We've only used it in testing, thankfully," he said.

The entry-level price of Revivio is $50,000 and reaches into six figures on the high end. Revivio is targeting companies whose business applications have the highest value, such as financial services, insurance companies and government agencies.

"Right now, you will only see early adopters for continuous data protection, mostly in financial services," said Taneja. "It's almost too powerful for many people to believe. For this technology to reach SMBs, the cost will have to be reduced."


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