Two weeks ago, HP announced the availability of its Electronic Vaulting Services for Enterprises as part of the company's ongoing improvement of its Business Continuity Service offerings. Given that service offerings are a major growth industry for enterprise customers, it's no surprise that HP has taken this step to offer its electronic vaulting service, which first appeared in 2004 as an offering for the small-to-midsized business (SMB) market, to its larger enterprise customers.

The Electronic Vaulting Service product is a continuous backup and recovery service to an offsite location that offers 24 x 7 remote monitoring and minimal hands-on IT involvement. It's a real-time service, not a point-in-time solution such as tape backup, and the data being monitored is always available for immediate restoration.

I've written about continuous data protection (CDP) services previously, generally those provided by third-party vendors who offer support for generic Windows or UNIX/Linux environments. HP has taken the step of offering a CDP service on its own, and although the CDP service is available as a standalone HP product, it's also part of HP's integrated business-continuity offering. HP's business-continuity offering includes a wide variety of services, from initial needs analysis and system design to full-blown offsite disaster recovery centers.

Complete details about HP's Electronic Vaulting Services for Enterprises weren't available at press time (see information at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2005/050906b.html). However, HP's SMB-oriented Electronic Vaulting Services is supported only on specific HP equipment and with only a limited set of non-HP software. Although those limitations aren't a problem in an environment that's 100 percent HP, in a large, mixed-vendor enterprise, a solution that works with only HP products wouldn't be a practical one. Presumably the enterprise service agreement for HP's Electronic Vaulting Services for Enterprises will take the nature of enterprise environments into account when defining what hardware and applications the service applies to.

CDP is the hot topic of the moment for the storage industry. Major storage players are all offering or are looking at offering some form of CDP product. Veteran backup software providers are also beginning to offer services in this arena.

It's hard to find fault with the CDP model. After you've configured a CDP solution (regardless of which vendor's product you're using), it takes much of the human element out of data protection. As long as sufficient network bandwidth is available, the CDP model works regardless of where data is located in the enterprise, be it at a remote office or on a remote user's laptop. CDP products typically let you restore lost data via a Web interface without requiring intervention of an IT staff member; users can recover their own data from any point in time that the CDP solution provides. (CDP solutions typically offer a window from 30 days to 1 year for maintaining historical backups.)

Vendors offer price structures ranging from about $35 per machine for client desktops to about $2000 per server, for a 1-year contract that provides 1 year of historical data. As new CDP solutions such as HP's continue to rapidly hit the market, it's an optimum time for customers who haven't yet adopted CDP to evaluate it as a backup solution