What Is the Difference Between Sync and Backup?

By Tobias Geisler Mesevage

To Sync or Backup, That is the Question

Syncing and backing up files are often used as interchangeable solutions for protecting data, but there are critical differentiators between the two options, especially when it comes to data restoration, that all business owners should understand.

Let’s explore the differences between syncing and backing up data.

File Backup

Backup refers to copying data from one location to another. For example, duplicating information from your laptop to an external hard drive, the cloud, another computer or a flash drive.

Backing up files tends to be the most traditional and reliable way a business can both protect their digital assets and ensure business continuity.

The benefits of backing up files include:

  • It can be automatic, so users can rest assured their information is safe, without doing anything
  • Users don’t need technical acumen, like setting up specific folders or dropping into the command bar to take action
  • Backup that occurs multiple times a day provides snapshots of your data, which allows you to access multiple versions of your content
  • With cloud-managed backup services, you don’t need on-premise infrastructure and can check-in on backup status anytime, anywhere

Backup is also useful for anyone who stores copious amounts of videos. Syncing often works with public cloud-based services, which have storage limits. To save space, most people opt to store videos locally, then back them up for security.

Syncing Files

To sync data, it typically means that two devices merge the same, and most recent information available. The most common example in business is the use of syncing and sharing services like:

  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • Google Drive
  • OneDrive
  • Evernote

These services allow data to be stored in an approved data repository, then accessed remotely by anyone with permission via PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones.

While syncing can be an incredibly powerful option for accessing and collaborating on work, it’s often most effective with an additional backup system in place.

This is true for a number of reasons, the first being that synced files can easily be misplaced as syncing directories between machines can get confusing. And even when you pay the premium to help improve search power, like selective syncing products, the setup can be overly technical.

Secondly, syncing to one of these programs doesn’t make your content immune from ransomware attacks.

For example, if you get ransomware on your local laptop then connect to a cloud data sync like OneDrive, not only will the malware encrypt the data on your laptop, it can also sync to the cloud, infect the cloud, and therefore put your synced data at risk.

In the event of data loss or a ransomware attack, restoration of the data, site structure, and permissions can be a long, and sometimes manual process — unless your data has been backed up.

Sync vs. Backup: Data Recovery

When it comes to recovering data, there are marked differences between sync and share services and backup recovery.

When it comes to sync and share, most often you can only recover data over the internet. That means if you need access to several gigabytes of data, not only can the process be time-consuming, but it’s also not a reliable method of recovery, as there may be errors if the internet connectivity drops or files fail to transfer.

Additionally, if you’re on the hook to pay for storage or egress of the data, recovering information can be expensive with public cloud or sync and share services.

Backing up data should make it easier for organizations to:

  • Recover lost files and folders
  • Locate emails, contacts, files, and folders through robust search capabilities
  • Leverage larger, or unlimited, storage capabilities to cost-effectively recover mass data

The Bottom Line

While syncing and backup strategies can work well in unison, a backup solution will always reign supreme.

In fact, industry experts recommend having a total of three copies of backed up data, each stored differently:

  • An external hard drive
  • A computer’s local drive
  • An offsite, or cloud-based option

From drive failures to malicious attacks on your information, you can never be too careful. And, without backing up your critical data, it may be impossible to access or recover your information in the event of accidental or malicious activity that impacts your organization.

Final takeaway: Whatever your plan is, for business continuity’s sake, make sure you act now. Without a plan in place, your data is at risk.

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