Continuous Data Protection (CDP): A Comprehensive Overview

Continuous data protection takes over where traditional backup methods end up. In our continuing series on data protection, today we’ll discuss how you should use continuous data protection to keep your business running when data disasters strike.

continuous data protection
Image courtesy of PC Mags

For decades, the standard of care in data protection has been to complete scheduled backups and incremental backups. Administrators have long practiced doing thorough backups of all data after hours or on weekends, sometimes even shutting down systems to back them up. Then, during regular business hours, they supplemented all the backups with incremental backups that included just the updated data. That strategy has developed into continuous data protection, better suited to the limits of time, storage space, and network bandwidth that most businesses encounter.

What exactly is continuous data protection and how does it work?

Continuous Data Protection (CDP) backs up any modified data and tracks those changes so administrators may restore systems to a prior point.

The word implies that software and hardware constantly back up data as it is generated or updated. However, it is more complex than that.

CDP is based on a complete backup but with a significant difference: incremental forever. After the first full backup, instead of arranging incremental backups at certain times and days, administrators arrange incremental forever backups every day or throughout the day. The time interval is less important than the fact that data protection is continually in progress.

The incremental forever is only effective provided it does not interfere with other ongoing processes or oversaturate the network. It is based on approaches that can rapidly determine which files have changed since the previous incremental backup or identify and back up just the modified data blocks in the case of block-based backup. That technique minimizes incremental backups, reduces network traffic, and shortens backup times.

The advantages of CDP

Continuous Data Protection (CDP) provides several benefits over conventional backup approaches, including:

Less storage space for backups

The sooner you run out of accessible storage space, the shorter your backup retention period, and the sooner you must delete or relocate backups. With continuous data protection, you may keep more backups, resulting in a longer retention period for the same amount of storage.

Lower costs

This also decreases expenses since you can store more data in the same space. Data deduplication, or the act of finding and deleting duplicate data blocks in a data backup set, is a technique that enables continuous data protection. Deduplication is critical to store as much data as feasible within the given capacity.

Reduced network traffic and bandwidth

Continuous protection reduces the quantity of network traffic created by backups and the network bandwidth they use. When securing data throughout the day in tiny bursts, you want it to use as little bandwidth as feasible. Otherwise, backups overburden the network, slowing bandwidth for all users.

All these benefits — the incremental forever method, the synthetic full strategy, and deduplication — work together to provide the solution.

The disadvantages of CDP

While CDP has several benefits, there are also possible disadvantages:

Legacy backups

Legacy backups are pretty simple. The technology is well-established and known, with low hardware requirements. In contrast, continuous data protection creates I/O on your storage devices continuously. You must be prepared to spend more money on gear that can handle the quantity of data you are sending to it. The most significant possible downside is that your old backup gear needs to be faster to ingest data efficiently.

Synthetic full

In addition to the I/O created by backups, synthetic full generate significant I/O as they combine incrementally to create a new full backup. Legacy systems need the synthetic full. Therefore, they need to prepare to handle the increased I/O. However, the design of a correctly built continuous data protection system incorporates software and hardware to allow for this.

Mistakes companies make along the way

As previously said, historic backup is good for data that does not change often, while continuous protection is suitable for continually changing data.

Organizations may also need to pay attention to the 3-2-1 rule. Always keep three copies of your data: two locally on various media types and one offshore (at a distant location or in the cloud). The rule guarantees that you have several copies of your data if you need to restore it after a catastrophe. Any decent data security architecture will include the 3-2-1 rule. However, if a corporation chooses to save money by not installing the full architecture, they may need a third, offsite copy of their data when disaster hits.

Best practices for implementation

Continuous Data Protection (CDP) must be carefully planned and executed to guarantee its efficacy and compliance with current infrastructure. Here are some recommended practices for establishing CDPs:

Data type

The most crucial factor is to consider the kind of data you’re backing up: is it continuously changing or seldom changing? This will establish if it is suitable for continuous data protection or legacy backup. From there, you may decide on storage gear that can handle the needed I/O.

Period for the incremental

Determine how often you can do incremental backups while maintaining enough hardware overhead. Consider any scheduling irregularities, such as restoring on Sunday and testing backups, to ensure your data protection remains uninterrupted.

Assume you’re attempting to safeguard every hour, but it takes 90 minutes to back up the incremental changes. This suggests you need to be safeguarding every hour. You have two options: lengthen the time to 90 minutes or configure the hardware to absorb all data in an hour.


Continuous data protection (CDP) is a contemporary data backup solution that provides a more efficient and adaptable approach than traditional approaches. CDP reduces data loss and improves recovery capabilities by continually backing up data and keeping track of such changes.

Through strategies such as incremental everlasting backups, synthetic full backups, and data deduplication, you may save storage space, money, and network traffic. However, CDP has certain drawbacks, including needing more powerful hardware to manage continual I/O demands and the difficulty of synthetic complete backups. Companies must also follow recognized guidelines, such as the 3-2-1 rule for redundancy and disaster recovery preparation.

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