The Online Backup Debate: Continuous Vs Scheduled

Posted on July 13, 2012 by Nikhil P Naik

Online backup has exploded in popularity within the past 5 years, and the numbers keep rising.

Although we all like to think we’re well-disciplined, all of us have lost data from our personal computers due to poor or non-existent backup habits. This could include anything from a full-hard drive crash or laptop theft, to a minor disaster such as an accidentally deleted file or a corrupted document.

When it comes to security, automation is the safest way to go. And this is one of the main reasons why online backup continues to be so popular. If you’ve been shopping around for online backup services, you’ll find that they generally come in one of 2 flavours:


Scheduled Backups

Scheduled backups allow you to configure your backups so that they take place at a specific time, and at a regular interval. A common example would be a daily backup which takes place at 2:00 am every night.

Scheduled backups can be a bit problematic, since you can still lose up to 24 hours worth of work because of a data disaster. And as we all know, our most recent documents are usually also our most important ones.

Nothing is worse than working all day on an important report, only to show up empty handed for the big meeting because your computer ate your homework. Another problem with scheduled backups is that they often take up a larger “backup window”. Although, this has been less of a problem within recent years, due to easy access to fast bandwidth.

Continuous Backups

Continuous backup – often called “CDP” or “real-time” backup – is the latest technology within the online backup space.

With continuous backups, your data is instantly uploaded every time you click on the save icon. This ensures that your latest backup copy is always accurate as of a few seconds ago.

In the previous data loss example, the report would’ve been protected thanks to a continuous backup cycle. Although continuous backups are generally better than scheduled backups, they do have certain limitations. Some people claim that continuous backups slow down their computers. Although this isn’t true, there’s a very good reason why they might think this.

Sometimes, computers contain frequently changing-files which are modified and saved every few minutes… and sometimes every few seconds. (A perfect typical example would be the PST files which are generated by MS Outlook)

In this case, a continuous backup process would update every time this file changes. And if this process takes place at a high frequency, it could potentially place a high load on your machine. Because of this, frequently-changing files are better-suited to scheduled backups instead of continuous backups.

The Solution

In order to get the most out of continuous and scheduled backups, it’s important to find a backup provider with flexible backup policies. Some providers only offer scheduled online backups, some providers only offer continuous online backups, and some provider give you the option of choosing between either continuous or scheduled. (But not both at once)

If you’re looking for a service that provides all of the benefits of continuous backups – but still offers efficient resource usage – you’ll need to shop around, Try to find a provider which has flexible backup policies which allow you to assign certain file types for continuous real-time backup, while allowing other files (such as PSTs) to be backed up on a schedule.

By combining both scheduled and real-time backups within the same backup policy, you’ll get the best of both worlds while also ensuring the lowest possible impact on your computer’s performance.

About The Author: Storagepipe Solutions offers high-end, business-class online backup services with powerful customisation capabilities and sophisticated backup policies.

About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.


  1. Hi Nikhil,

    You got it straight to the point. I think for most consumers continuous backup is the best solution as it is pretty much set it and forget it. However, continuous backup can take up more system resources, so if you’re on a slow machine that’s problematic.

    Scheduling can be important for people that have a computer at home that they leave on while at work. That way they can perform a backup when they’re not at home.

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