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IBM to Ship Continuous Backup Software

Banking that ubiquitous bandwidth and wireless Internet access are the way of the future, IBM has announced it will begin offering IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files (aka CDP for Files) for Windows systems on September 16 for $35 per laptop or desktop computer, or $995 per server CPU. IBM’s CDP for Files is distinguished by its approach to backup: the lightweight client software continuously backs up incremental data and files locally on the user’s system, but can also send copies of that data to a file server or IBM TSM (Tivoli Storage Manager) server as network connectivity becomes available. CDP for Files is tolerant of transient networks like wireless access points: that means mobile users can transparently have their most recently changed data and new files backed up to a server automatically when they pop into a coffee shop to check their email.

The combination of the two approaches is novel: as storage capacity increases on desktop and laptop systems, few users (who aren’t creating media like music, images, and video) utilize the complete storage potential of their systems, making incremental local backups of recently-created or modified data a viable backup strategy. Of course, local file backups are vulnerable to the same drops, theft hazards, and spilled beverages as the original files themselves, so backups to a separate system are still necessary. As high speed wireless Internet access becomes more ubiquitous, IBM is banking that the availability of transient, high-speed Internet access to mobile users will create a viable backup solution. Roaming users’ systems simply “phone home” whenever they find themselves with Internet access and send the most recent data there to be backed up: the user never has to worry about it.

CDP for Files offers first-class backup features, including the ability to set priorities for (and exclude) specific types of tiles, full versioning (meaning the user can restore files as they existed at a particular date and time), and archive retention (how long the backup system retains data). IBM’s information on the product does not mention whether or how network connections used for backup are secured from snooping; one hope the software can tie into VPNs, SSH tunnels, other secured network technologies.

Naturally, IBM is pitching CDP for Files as an add-on to its industrial-strength Tivoli Storage Manager used by enterprises and other large organizations, but the idea behind CPM for Files is elegant enough to scale to small business and even home network users. Which can only be a good thing. After all, despite manufacturers’ claims, the failure rate of hard drives and other storage media is 100 percent (it’s a question of when, not if), and most users only back up their data rarely, if ever. Solutions like CPM for Files could take enough pain out of backup—especially for mobile users—that everyday computer users might actually start doing it.

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