What is Continuous Backup?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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Continuous backup, which is also sometimes called continuous data protection, is a process by which data stored on a computer is backed up in a second storage location every time the user creates a new file or makes changes to an existing file. This means that, essentially, versions of files are saved as the files are created and changed. One of the main reasons to use continuous backup is to make sure that, no matter when a computer crash occurs, the latest versions of all of the files will be protected. This kind of backup is also sometimes referred to as real-time backup. Depending on the preferences and needs of the administrator, specific kinds of files can be allocated for continuous backup.

The main difference between continuous backup and backups that are completed manually or automatically on a periodic basis is that there is no scheduling involved in the process. A manual backup can occur at any time that the administrator chooses, but is usually performed on a scheduled, periodic basis if the administrator is keen to maintain backup files. An automatic backup occurs on a periodic basis that may be weekly, daily, or even hourly. Continuous backup, on the other hand, occurs moment by moment as files are added, created, or updated.


Systems that allow for automatic backups that occur on a very frequent basis are sometimes referred to as near continues backup systems. Even when files are changed, added to, or updated on a very frequent basis, this kind of backup program will, at the most, lead to the loss of an hour's worth of changes. While the benefits of this kind of backup system are almost as good as the benefits of a continuous backup system, the two are not the same in terms of process or definition.

One of the benefits to this kind of backup system is that, in most cases, the files that are allocated for continuous backup are resaved as changes are made. This means that the most recent version of the file is saved instead of simply saving a new draft of the file every time the file user makes the smallest change. There are certainly benefits to a continuous backup system, but there are also disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that a continuous backup system can cause network problems. This is especially true in cases where very large, complex files are being backed up on a regular basis.


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