• United States
by Michele Hope

Continuous protection

Dec 26, 20054 mins
Backup and RecoveryData Center

Early adopters love the peace of mind they get with continuous-data-protection tools.

IT specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds benefits in tool providing continuous-data protection.

Mark Kash, an IT specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, knows the joy of using technology to turn once-irritating hands-on jobs to hands-off, automated processes.

 Stress-busting with CDP

Charged with protecting more than 1,000 desktop computers at 55 remote sites associated with the Army Corps’ Huntington District in West Virginia, Kash used to spend Saturday mornings checking the status of back-up jobs. But that chore became a thing of the past last year, when he began using Storactive’s LiveBackup continuous-data-protection (CDP) tool.

Kash switched to LiveBackup from a pricey back-up service that often caused remote client workstations to hang in the mornings while back-up jobs were running. Persuading management to make a one-time investment of $150,000 for the hardware and software required to run LiveBackup was a cinch when he compared the project cost with the roughly $540,000 the Corps would have spent on the outsourced back-up service over the next three years. “We were really able to do this without increasing the budget,” he says.

Just as important, backing up 1,000 PCs is now virtually hands-off, a thrilling outcome, Kash says.

CDP products sit in the background and record any changes made to a specific file or to an application’s underlying block-based data in real time, Kash explains. They’re fueled by database applications that record ongoing changes made at the point of a user save or a database write request. This contrasts to legacy back-up software or newer, disk-based snapshot technology that backs up data sets from a specific point in time.

CDP comes as host-based software or combined in hardware/software products or appliances, such as the Continuous Protection System 1200 by Revivio, a 2005 start-up to watch. Besides Revivio and Storactive, CDP vendors include start-ups Mendocino Software, TimeSpring Software and XOsoft, as well as mainstays EMC, HP, IBM, Microsoft and Network Appliance (through the acquisition of Alacritus).

Combining CDP and replication

As a young technology, CDP often isn’t on an IT executive’s wish list. But once discovered, many want it.

Such is the case at Evenson Best, a New York-based, furniture distributor and management company with 140 globe-trotting employees. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Northeast power-grid failures and an explosion in his building, IT Director Martin Silverman knew he needed a way to keep Evenson Best’s critical data and systems replicated off-site and available to employees no matter what was happening at headquarters.

While he was thinking about remote replication, he deployed a combination of that technology with the data-rewind CDP functionality. The combo comes in XOsoft’s WANSyncHA software, which helps Silverman avoid replicating potentially corrupted data from one site to another. WANSyncHA solves this problem, he says, by recording specific checkpoints of changes stored in its database that can be used to identify the last-known good state of data before corruption.

“If our main facility ever goes dark, we now have an up-to-the-minute copy of our data,” Silverman says.

Silverman has been using WANSyncHA for six months and says he’s been pleased with the product’s CDP functionality and the four self-tests it runs daily. If the testing uncovers a potential problem and there is a need to fail over to the remote server, the software will alert him.

Evenson Best’s investment in WANSyncHA is an insurance policy to protect against something going wrong, Silverman says. If disaster strikes, it will pay for itself several times over. That type of assurance, he adds, is priceless.

//CDP virtuesCorporate IT executives who have deployed CDP tools cite these advantages:

Makes application data more available by eliminating the back-up window required by traditional back-up software.
Offers one of the lowest recovery-point objectives for restores (up to the last file save or transaction).
Allows rapid, disk-based system recovery or file recovery (also referred to as a low recovery-time objective).
Reduces IT involvement in back-up/restore administration and troubleshooting.
Can reduce IT support costs by offering user-driven file restores.

Hope is a freelance writer who covers enterprise storage and network issues. She can be reached at

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