What Is Data Backup?

Check out the complete data backup guide: definition, benefits, types, and IT backup solutions.

Data backup is the process of copying data from a primary location to a secondary destination in case of loss of the original data to a disaster, accident, or malfunction. In many instances, backups can help recover older files that have already been deleted. Essentially, data backup is one of the essential tools in the arsenal of a modern enterprise, as data protection is critical for the survival of any organization.  

The Importance of IT Backup

It is impossible to stress enough how important data backups are for businesses. IT departments are usually responsible for managing backups, and it is indeed a struggle. Unlike ordinary users, organizations need to back up client databases, operating systems, registries, and anything that has to do with how a business functions.  

While it all may sound pretty straightforward, data backups are anything but easy. Protection of critical infrastructure requires a compelling IT backup and recovery plan considering anything life might throw at you, from employee mistakes to fully-fledged disasters. In particular, businesses always need to operate seamlessly, and they must have a resilient infrastructure.  

What does that mean? When a disaster occurs, the system will be up and running in no time, no matter what happens, be it power loss or a ransomware attack. A successful and efficient IT backup and recovery plan must have a precise recovery time and recovery point, combined with independent action plans that assign clearly defined responsibilities to each one of the key employees. IT backup is always complex, but a comprehensive approach and taking steps that account for the most likely possibilities may help simplify the task.  

Data Backup Options

There is more than one way to backup your data. Ideally, one should decide upon their choice concerning their individual needs in terms of data backup and recovery: 

  1. Media. CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, flash drives, you name it. Any small media device that can be connected and removed with apparent ease is fit to be used for backup and recovery, albeit the use is limited to private users.  
  2. Redundancy. An external replica of the system’s drive or infrastructure. It either replicates the system at a specific time or entirely, such as an external email server, to backup a primary email server. System redundancy can be a lifesaver, but only if the external replica is located remotely. 
  3. External Hard Drive. There is also a possibility to use archive software for saving changes to local files to the external hard drive. The recovery process is swift, but the drive needs to be located in your network, which brings specific risks. Data volume growth is also problematic because it requires more than one external hard drive.  
  4. Hardware. Buying a complete backup hardware appliance is one of the simplest ways to go. They are popular because they usually have extensive storage capacity and pre-configured software. Once the backup schedule is set, data will be streaming to the device. As with the external hard drive, a more reliable option is to keep it in a remote location.  
  5. Software. Unlike their hardware counterparts, software-based backup solutions are more complex but allow more operating freedom. You can decide what you need to backup, where, and when. The whole process can be automated as well.  
  6. Cloud. With the rise of the cloud, another data option is becoming more and more popular. A BaaS (Backup as a Service) solution enables you to store backup data in the cloud and recover it quickly in the case of disaster. It is easy, reliable, and seems to have zero to no disadvantages. However, in the long run, cloud backup services eventually cost much more than their on-premises analogs.

What are RTO and RPO?

We have already previously mentioned a backup schedule, and now is the time to discuss it in detail. In a large organization with dozens of employees, files are changed constantly, and the frequency of backups is essential. More specifically, the recovery process restores data only up to the latest backup. Anything beyond that is lost indefinitely.  

So, the amount of data doomed to be lost is decided by the RPO (Recovery Point Objective). Essentially, it defines how much data will be lost in case of failure. If the backup is performed once an hour, the RPO is 1 hour. In layperson’s terms, the lower the RPO, the better.  

The latter is also true for the RTO (Recovery Time Objective). This parameter measures the time it takes to restore all systems to normal from a backup after experiencing failure. It can take some time if we’re talking about large data volumes or remote backups. Vendors are constantly improving their solutions to guarantee that the RTO is as low as possible.  

Different types of Data Backups

Types of data backups can differ depending on specific conditions, but there are three main types you need to know about. 

Full backup.

A replica of a set of data in its totality. It is the most reliable type of data backup, albeit the most tedious one, as it requires much time and many discs. Moreover, “synthetic full” backup replicates data from an original backup to copy to create another.  

Incremental backup.

Unlike the previous contender, this type of data backup saves only the latest changes, although it significantly reduces restoration time if used for recovery. However, incremental-forever backups minimize the backup window and simultaneously allow faster recovery access to data.  

Differential backup.

This type of data backup also works with copying data changed since the last full backup. The whole restoration process generally becomes faster since all there is to do is restore data from the previous full and differential backups. However, the more differential backups are created, the more it distorts the backup window.  

Data Management Solutions

We have already mentioned how data backup/management solutions are one of the primary options for data backup. It is essential to know what they are and how they work: 

Hardware Appliances.

These backup solutions typically include storage devices provided by a vendor which you connect to your system. In practice, you barely need to do anything except for installing backup agents. Then configure the frequency of backups, and let them do all the work. The appliance is easily accessible through a graphical interface. Remember, though, that failure can become quite a nuisance if it’s your only backup option.  

Software Solutions.

Software-based data backup solutions are installed on your infrastructure. Occasionally, they would require a dedicated server, but primarily they utilize the existing environment, which makes it all easier. More likely than not, you’ll even be able to install backup software on a VM (virtual machine). Software solutions often offer a great deal of flexibility and prices.  

Cloud Services.

Backup as a Service Solutions is the most straightforward choice. Essentially, it is what it sounds like: you run and manage data backups on a provider’s cloud. In terms of simplicity, it beats even software since all you need to do is install lightweight agents on the systems you need to back up, and it is good to go.  

Data Backup Storage

Configuring storage space is a significant part of a successful IT backup and recovery process. Data backup storage can go in different ways. Some of the most common methods to store data are: 

  1. Local or USB Disks
  2. NAS (Network Attached Storage)/SAN (Storage Area Network)
  3. Tapes
  4. Cloud

Defining what data backup storage solution is best for your system is subject to many factors that need to be considered. Since the emergence of object-based storage, it has been clear that it has great potential. After all, it is hardly a coincidence that all major cloud providers utilize object storage. However, it generally isn’t appropriate to serve as a primary storage, just a secondary one. Only lately, Object First has provided the marketplace with quite a unique storage appliance (leveraged specifically for Veeam users) that allows using object-based storage as primary storage. It has effortless immutability and easily scales up to half a petabyte.

If you are interested in finding out how to utilize object-based data backup storage capacity to its fullest, you are welcome to look at our product page. 

Summary

The importance of data and its availability for an organization cannot be overestimated. No business will survive without a robust data backup solution to protect against failures, ransomware attacks, or other disasters. What solution would be better for you depending entirely on your needs? What kind of storage is the best financially? What are your RPO and RTO? Are your backups going to be kept on-premises or cloud?  

Each enterprise is unique in a certain way, and there’s hardly a universal solution. Data backups cover all the information the company is working with, which is a LOT (configuration files, machine images, etc.), and we can’t stress enough how important it is. IT departments usually manage backups, which sometimes take up a significant portion of their work. 

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