The Differences Between Backup and Replication

Feb 2012

The Differences Between Backup and Replication

Posted by Samantha Morris

What’s right for your business – a data backup solution, replication or both? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  This post will review the considerations that you need to make before reaching a decision on which approach is best for your business.

It’s important to determine your business objectives for choosing a replication or backup strategy and in order to do so, you’ll need a clear understanding around the differences between disaster recovery and business continuity. 

Disaster Recovery (DR) is the process by which you resume business after a disruptive event. This could include a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane, or could be something less significant, such as malfunctioning software caused by a computer virus. 

Business Continuity (BC) describes the processes and procedures an organization puts in place to ensure that essential business functions can continue during and after a disaster. The goal is to prevent interruption of mission-critical services and to re-establish full functioning as swiftly and as smoothly as possible.

If your organization suffers from a failed RAID array or a geographical disaster, for example a hurricane hits one of your regional offices, and you were using a replication strategy with no “point in time” backup, you would be able to restore from replicated storage to get things up and running quickly – translating into seamless business continuance. 

It is atypical for something like the above to happen, but it does occur. Let’s look at a few more likely scenarios as it relates to replication. Whenever humans are involved mistakes are bound to happen. If a user accidentally deletes a file from the primary server, the deletion will be replicated across all subsequent secondary and tertiary storage. Another example is that of a corrupted file at the primary site that is replicated – making it impossible to recover. 

With more than 90% of restores stemming from user error (accidental deletion) and corruption rather than data loss, replication and snapshots can’t provide the level of protection that is required as part of a comprehensive BC/DR strategy.   

Keeping alternative copies of data in multiple locations is a great idea, reducing the risk of data loss and potentially enabling enhanced access, but fails to address recovery point objectives or RPOs that are addressed with data backup—managing multiple historical copies of a data set.

With a proper backup procedure in place you can refer back to a point in time, for example, when the last scheduled backup was run. If  there are multiples sets of backup stored, you can refer back to a version of the file/database, before the corruption/deletion occurred.

Adding basic data protection techniques like snapshots or replication to a storage system doesn't make it a backup solution. Replication can leverage storage capabilities, but a backup management solution will always be required for complete data protection.

Having both replication and a backup system in place is the ideal scenario – achieving both  high availability for business continuity and the ability to restore for a point in time backup, but it can be expensive.  If the ideal situation is cost prohibitive for your organization, the best solution is to utilize a service based on a backup platform that can create a virtual replica of your environment versus replication.

To learn more about cloud backup and your options, please access the complimentary guide “What you need to know about cloud backup” which  addresses the most common questions that companies are asking about cloud backup and will help you determine what role a cloud backup recovery and restore (BURR) solution can have in your business.

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