March 20, 2020
Data Backup and Recovery Methods: The Basics You Need to Know
What is backup and restore?
Backup is the process of creating a copy of data to protect against accidental or malicious deletion, corruption, hardware failure, ransomware attacks, and other types of data loss. Data backups can be created locally, offsite, or both. An offsite data backup is a key part of any business continuity/disaster recovery plan.
Restore is the process of retrieving data from a backup. This might mean copying data from backup media to an existing device or to a new device. It also could mean copying data from the cloud to a local device, or from one cloud to another. Recovery refers to the process of restoring data and operations (e.g., returning a server to normal working order following hardware failure). Products aimed at rapid recovery of data and operations are typically referred to as business continuity and disaster recovery, or BCDR, solutions.
Restore and recovery times can vary widely depending on the backup format and data recovery methods you choose. Additionally, restore needs also vary (e.g., restoring a single file vs. an entire server). Finally, critical data may live on workstations, local servers, and in the cloud. These are important considerations when selecting a backup and recovery solution.
Types of data backup
Traditional tape or disk backup
Tape backup has been around in some form or another since the 1960s. Tape is still commonly used today for large enterprise system backup, archiving, and even for long-term cloud storage. The primary benefits of tape are massive capacity, low cost, and offsite data backup.
Disk backup emerged in the 1990s and grew in popularity through the early 2000s, because it offered much faster backup and recovery than tape systems. Other than backup and restore speed, disk backup also allows users to retrieve individual files without the need to first restore an entire data set.
Traditional disk backup solutions have the ability to offload data to tape or the cloud for disaster recovery and/or archiving. However, restoring a large amount of data (say, the contents of an entire server) from offsite tape or cloud is slow. Using traditional backup methods, recovery can take hours or even days. During this time, business operations are seriously compromised, which of course results in damaging revenue loss.
Direct-to-cloud backup, cloud-to-cloud backup, and SaaS backup
With direct-to-cloud, offsite file backups are copied directly to the cloud, bypassing the need for a local device. Cloud-to-cloud backup is the process of copying data from one cloud to another cloud. SaaS backup refers to backing up data created in SaaS applications such as Microsoft 365 or Google G Suite.
Many organisations believe that because SaaS data exists in the cloud, there is no longer a need for backup. This however, is not true. Data created in SaaS applications is just as vulnerable to accidental or malicious deletion and ransomware attacks as on-premises data. Backup and recovery in cloud computing is still evolving and will continue to develop as more businesses migrate workloads into the cloud.
Business continuity/disaster recovery (BCDR):
BCDR solutions are designed to enable fast restores that minimise business downtime. To do so, these solutions use snapshot and virtualisation technologies to create and store bootable virtual server images on a backup device or in the cloud. In the event of a primary server failure or other outage, business operations are “failed over” to the backup device or cloud while the primary server is being restored, repaired, or replaced. Once the primary server is back up and running, operations are “failed back” to the primary device.
BCDR recovery times are typically measured in minutes rather than the hours or even days required of traditional backup tools. BCDR solutions have become popular with businesses of all sizes, but are probably most beneficial for small to medium businesses (SMBs). In the past, failover technologies required massive hardware investment and high management costs. Because of their relatively low cost, today’s BCDR solutions have revolutionised SMB data protection. Datto SIRIS is one example of this type of BCDR solution. It is designed specifically for managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver secure data backup and recovery service to SMBs
Types Of Data Recovery
Not all data loss scenarios are the same, so it is important to choose a backup solution that addresses a wide range of restore and recovery needs and reduces data recovery steps. As an example, let’s look at some of the data recovery methods available to Datto SIRIS users:
- File Restore: A file restore is exactly what it sounds like—the process of replacing a lost file or files from a backup to its primary location. With SIRIS, an administrator can mount a recovery point, view the protected system’s file structure, locate the necessary files, and restore them back to the primary system. If you only need to retrieve a file or a small number of files, this is the ideal restore type.
- Volume Restore: When you perform a volume restore on SIRIS, the contents of the chosen recovery point is shared as an iSCSI target. This restore type retrieves files and folders with permissions intact and is used to restore large numbers of files when a bare metal restore is not necessary (i.e., the physical server is intact and operating correctly).
- Bare metal restore: This is the process of restoring an entire system image (the protected machine’s data, applications, settings, and operating system) from a backup to a new physical server. “Bare metal” refers to the new system’s unused, unconfigured hardware. Bare metal restore is used when a primary server fails, is damaged, or is otherwise rendered inoperable. Datto SIRIS’ bare metal restore option uses the Datto Utilities environment to reimage a protected system from a selected snapshot.
- Local virtualisation: Local virtualisation is a feature of BCDR solutions that offers fast recovery of business operations. Local virtualisation uses hypervisor technology to boot a virtual server from a snapshot on the backup device. This enables businesses to continue normal business operations while the primary server is restored (using one of the methods above). Local virtualisation nearly eliminates costly business downtime. On Datto SIRIS, this functionality is known as Instant Virtualisation.
- Cloud virtualisation: Cloud virtualisation refers to the process outlined above, but in the cloud rather than on a local backup device. Some BCDR solutions can create a tertiary cloud copy of backup server images. In the event that both the primary and backup servers are inoperable, say because of a fire or flood, business operations can be continued on the cloud backup server image. Datto SIRIS enables this type of recovery in the Datto Cloud.
These are just some of the data recovery techniques that Datto offers. To learn more, check out the Datto Disaster Recovery Guide on our KnowledgeBase.
What is backup management?
Backup management refers to the ongoing administration of data protection operations. The effort necessary to manage backups can vary greatly depending on the data backup method in use (see the ‘Types of data backup’ section above). Backup management can incur considerable administrative costs. When selecting a backup solution, this is an important consideration.
Look for products that enable:
- Automation of routine tasks
- Backup verification
- Policy-based retention
- Integration with other applications
Solutions with these capabilities may have higher upfront costs than some other backup tools. However, lower-cost solutions are likely to lack sophisticated backup management functionality and as a result have higher administrative costs. So, it is essential to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) when selecting a backup solution.
Datto SIRIS offers a variety of features aimed at increasing administrative efficiency for MSPs, such as integration with Datto RMM and Autotask PSA, as well as integrations with popular third-party PSA, RMM, and other MSP tools. Integrations reduce data recovery steps, remove complexity, and increase MSP efficiency, allowing them to focus on what they do best—providing data backup and recovery service to their clients.
Advantages of backup and recovery in one solution
Finding an all-in-one solution that offers fast, reliable backups and rapid recovery capabilities can dramatically reduce the costs associated with data loss and business downtime. Solutions like this can streamline data backup management and administrative costs. There is no need to manage multiple products to address different recovery scenarios.
Datto SIRIS offers reliable local and cloud backup and near-instant recovery, integrated hardware and software for easy setup and management, and 24x7 support all from a single vendor. It is a true all-in-one data backup and recovery solution.
- Easy to deploy and manage: There’s no need to cobble together products from different hardware, software, and cloud vendors to develop a complete solution. Devices are properly configured out of the box, and if something does go wrong, there’s no finger pointing between vendors.
- Reliable, verified, image-based backups: Advanced backup verification gives users 100% confidence in local and cloud backups by automatically verifying that server images are complete, ransomware-free, and boot-able.
- Fast recovery: Protected systems can be virtualised on the Datto device (6 second local recovery) or in the cloud. Datto’s “copy-on-write” snapshots do not require a conversion process that slows recovery.
- Flexible recovery options: SIRIS has the most restore and rollback options of any BCDR solution—a full restore toolbox allowing you to address any recovery scenario and meet recovery time objectives (RTO).