Backups are essential for an IT infrastructure to function as they provide a plan B in case anything goes awry in a network. All the time and energy that gets put into setting up and maintaining that infrastructure could be wasted if nothing has been backed up. There are several reasons that a backup would be required as a simple solution, saving time and headaches!
Viruses/Malware/Ransomware – If files/programs like this gain access to a network they can cause serious damage, both long term and short term
Hardware Failures – Sometimes hardware will fail, either due to a fault or simply expiring from constant use
Staff error – Whether accidental or from malicious purposes staff within a company can sometimes cause data to be lost
Updates – Occasionally when updating software or hardware the process of updating can cause errors or loss of data
Theft – Data can be stolen either online or physically, in cases like this having multiple backups is a big advantage
Types of Backups
There are many other reasons for why a network would want to have backups, the examples listed above are the most common reasons. Next let’s talk about the kinds of backups that are available to use in IT infrastructure, several options are used when creating/maintaining backups of IT systems, each with their own specific uses and benefits.
Both Image-Based and File backups can be used for Full, Incremental, Differential, or Mirror backups.
Image-Based – A full copy of a hard drive is taken at a set time (many companies choose to do their backups at night or when network traffic is low) and incremental updates are completed in between full backups. By doing this, the system can be completely restored at anytime and to new hard drives.
File – All files on a system will be backed up, either in real time or at set intervals. Multiple file backups can be kept and restored at any time
Full – This is a complete backup of every file, and every time a system is backed up it will create a complete copy of every file. While it is much faster to restore because it contains every single file, it does take longer to do and uses up much more storage due to the number of files being backed up.
Incremental – These will create a full backup the first time they run, but from then on whenever a backup is created it will only be files that have had changes applied to them since the last backup. When incremental backups are restored, they merge with the full backup to update the latest full backup.
Differential – These function basically in the same way as incremental backups; however, a key difference is that instead of creating a backup of all changes since the most recent backup, it will create a backup of all changes since the last full backup.
Mirror – This is a variation of a full backup; it works in much the same way, but if a file is deleted from the network, it will also be deleted from the backup itself, so users should be careful when maintaining these kinds of backups.
All of these can be completed in three ways:
Offsite – These are stored in a different location to where the main site is located, this way if something happens to a network at the main site the backup won’t be affected.
Onsite – These allow for backups to be stored directly on the main site, making them quick and easy to access. They should ideally be used with either the offsite or online solutions to ensure full protection of data.
Online – This is a newer way of creating a backup and is incredibly accessible and useful. They can be set up to automatically create backups without requiring a human to manage them. However, because they are online they can take longer to restore based on the speed of the network.