What Is Data Backup? The Complete Guide

Data Backup & Archive

What Is Data Backup? The Complete Guide

In an increasingly digitized business landscape, data backup is vital for the survival of an organization. You can get hacked or ransomed, and lose your data to thieves who’ll sell your trade secrets to the highest bidder. Injected malware can corrupt your hard-earned information. Disgruntled employees or other insider threats can delete your valuable digital assets. Can you recover from data loss?

Data backup is a practice that combines techniques and solutions for efficient and cost-effective backup. Your data is copied to one or more locations, at pre-determined frequencies, and at different capacities. You can set up a flexible data backup operation, using your own architecture, or make use of available Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions, mixing them up with local storage. Today, there are plenty of corporate storage TCO solutions to help you calculate costs, avoid data loss, and prevent data breaches.

In this article:

• What Is Data Backup?
• The Importance of a Disaster Recovery Plan: Alarming Statistics
• Data Backup Options
• Backup Storage Technology

What Is a Data Backup?

Data backup is the practice of copying data from a primary to a secondary location, to protect it in case of a disaster, accident or malicious action. Data is the lifeblood of modern organizations, and losing data can cause massive damage and disrupt business operations. This is why backing up your data is critical for all businesses, large and small.

What does backup data mean?

Typically backup data means all necessary data for the workloads your server is running. This can include documents, media files, configuration files, machine images, operating systems, and registry files. Essentially, any data that you want to preserve can be stored as backup data.

Data backup includes several important concepts:

  • Backup solutions and tools—while it is possible to back up data manually, to ensure systems are backed up regularly and consistently, most organizations use a technology solution to back up their data.
  • Backup administrator—every organization should designate an employee responsible for backups. That employee should ensure backup systems are set up correctly, test them periodically and ensure that critical data is actually backed up.
  • Backup scope and schedule—an organization must decide on a backup policy, specifying which files and systems are important enough to be backed up, and how frequently data should be backed up.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)—RPO is the amount of data an organization is willing to lose if a disaster occurs, and is determined by the frequency of backup. If systems are backed up once per day, the RPO is 24 hours. The lower the RPO, the more data storage, compute and network resources are required to achieve frequent backups.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)—RTO is the time it takes for an organization to restore data or systems from backup and resume normal operations. For large data volumes and/or backups stored off-premises, copying data and restoring systems can take time, and robust technical solutions are needed to ensure a low RTO.

The Importance of a Disaster Recovery Plan: Alarming Statistics

To understand the potential impact of disasters on businesses, and the importance of having a data backup strategy as part of a complete disaster recovery plan, consider the following statistics:

  • Cost of downtime—according to Gartner, the average cost of downtime to a business is $5,600 per minute.
  • Survival rate—another Gartner study found only 6% of companies affected by a disaster that did not have disaster recovery in place survived and continued to operate more than two years after the disaster.
  • Causes of data loss—the most common causes of data loss are hardware/system failure (31%), human error (29%) and viruses, and malware of ransomware (29%).

Data Backup Options

There are many ways to backup your file. Choosing the right option can help ensure that you are creating the best data backup plan for your needs. Below are six of the most common techniques or technologies:

Removable Media

Removable media backup, such as CDs, DVDs, and flash drives, has long been a popular method of data protection. This type of backup is affordable and easy to use, making it an attractive option for many users. Removable media is portable, and can be stored in a safe deposit box or off-site location, providing an extra layer of security in case of a disaster.

Drawbacks of removable media for backup include the limited storage capacity compared to other backup options. As a result, you may need to use multiple discs or drives to store larger amounts of data. Additionally, removable media can be prone to damage, such as scratches or exposure to heat and moisture, which can result in data loss. Finally, the speed of data transfer and backup can be slower compared to other methods, which could be a concern for users with large amounts of data to backup.

Removable media backup may be a suitable option for those who require a simple, affordable, and portable data backup solution. However, if you have large amounts of data to protect or require a faster backup process, you may want to consider other backup options.


Redundancy is a vital aspect of data backup, as it involves creating multiple copies of your data to ensure its safety and accessibility. By having more than one copy of your data, you can minimize the risk of data loss in case of a hardware failure, natural disaster, or other unforeseen circumstances. Redundancy can be achieved through various means, such as using multiple hard drives, employing RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) technology, or utilizing cloud backup services.

RAID technology is a popular method of achieving redundancy in data storage. RAID combines multiple hard drives into a single storage unit, distributing data across the drives in various ways, depending on the RAID level used. This configuration provides increased data protection and, in some cases, improved performance. RAID levels include RAID 0, which offers increased performance but no redundancy, RAID 1, which mirrors data across two drives, and RAID 5, which distributes data and parity information across multiple drives for both performance and redundancy.

Choosing the appropriate level of redundancy for your data backup needs depends on factors such as the importance of the data, the potential impact of data loss, and your budget. Typically, a higher level of redundancy is needed for mission-critical data.

External Hard Drive

External hard drives are a popular choice for data backup due to their convenience and ease of use. These devices connect to your computer via USB or other connection types and offer a large amount of storage space for your data. External hard drives are portable, allowing you to easily move and store your data off-site for added security. They also provide a relatively fast backup process compared to other methods, such as removable media.

Despite their many benefits, external hard drives do have some drawbacks. One major concern is that they are susceptible to physical damage and theft, which could result in data loss. Additionally, external hard drives can fail, just like any other hard drive, leading to potential data loss. Finally, while external hard drives are more affordable than some other backup options, they can still be costly, especially if you require multiple drives for redundancy or large storage capacities.

External hard drives can be an excellent backup option for users who require a portable, easy-to-use, and relatively fast data backup solution. However, it’s essential to consider the potential risks associated with this method and ensure that you have adequate redundancy measures in place to protect your data.

Hardware Appliances

Hardware appliances are dedicated devices designed specifically for data backup and storage. These appliances often come with built-in backup software and can support various storage types, such as hard drives, tape drives, or cloud storage. Hardware appliances can provide a comprehensive, all-in-one backup solution for businesses and may include features such as data deduplication, encryption, and automated backup scheduling.

One of the main advantages of using a hardware appliance for data backup is the convenience and ease of use they offer. Since these devices are specifically designed for backup purposes, the setup and management process can be more straightforward than other methods. Hardware appliances also often include features that can improve the efficiency and security of your backup process, such as data deduplication and encryption. Additionally, many hardware appliances support multiple backup destinations, allowing you to easily achieve redundancy and off-site storage.

The primary disadvantage of hardware appliances is their cost, as they can be quite expensive, particularly for small businesses. Additionally, hardware appliances can become outdated over time as technology advances, potentially requiring you to upgrade or replace the device to maintain optimal performance and data protection.

Hardware appliances can be an excellent data backup solution for businesses that require a comprehensive, easy-to-manage, and secure backup process. However, the cost of these devices may be prohibitive for some users, and it’s essential to consider the long-term investment and potential need for upgrades when choosing this option.

Backup Software

Backup software is an essential component of any data backup strategy, as it helps automate and streamline the backup process. There is a wide range of backup software available, from simple, free tools to more advanced, feature-rich offerings. Backup software can help ensure that your data is backed up efficiently and securely, allowing you to recover your data quickly and easily in case of a disaster.

Some key features to look for include:

  • Automation: Good backup software should allow you to schedule backups automatically, ensuring that your data is consistently protected.
  • Incremental and differential backups: These backup types only save changes made since the last backup, saving time and storage space.
  • Encryption: Backup software should offer encryption options to ensure that your data is secure and protected from potential breaches.
  • Compression: Some backup software includes compression options, which can help reduce the amount of storage space required for backups.
  • Multiple backup destinations: Having the ability to backup to multiple locations or devices can provide added redundancy and protection.

While there are many free backup software options available, paid software often includes additional features and support that can be beneficial for businesses or those with more complex backup needs. Paid software may also offer faster data transfer speeds and more reliable backup processes.

Cloud Backup Services

Cloud backup services are a popular option for data backup, providing off-site storage and accessibility via the internet. These services store your data on remote servers, typically run by a third-party provider, allowing you to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud backup services often include features such as encryption, redundancy, and automated backups.

One of the most significant benefits of cloud backup services is the convenience and accessibility they offer. Since your data is stored remotely, you can access it from anywhere, at any time, provided you have an internet connection. Additionally, many cloud backup services include robust security measures, such as encryption and redundancy, providing added protection for your data. Finally, cloud backup services typically offer scalable storage options, allowing you to increase or decrease your storage as needed.

One potential concern with cloud backup services is the potential for data breaches or other security issues. While many providers offer robust security measures, because these services are accessible from the Internet, there is a higher risk of misconfiguration and unauthorized access. Additionally, cloud backup services can be costly, especially for users with large amounts of data to store.

What Is a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy?

A 3-2-1 backup strategy is a method for ensuring that your data is adequately duplicated and reliably recoverable. In this strategy, three copies of your data are created on at least two different storage media and at least one copy is stored remotely: 

  • Three copies of data—your three copies include your original data and two duplicates. This ensures that a lost backup or corrupted media do not affect recoverability.
  • Two different storage types—reduces the risk of failures related to a specific medium by using two different technologies. Common choices include internal and external hard drives, removable media, or cloud storage.
  • One copy off-site—eliminates the risk associated with a single point of failure. Offsite duplicates are needed for robust disaster and data backup recovery strategies and can allow for failover during local outages. 

This strategy is considered a best practice by most information security experts and government authorities. It protects against both accidents and malicious threats, such as ransomware, and ensures reliable data backup and restoration.

Server Backup: Backing Up Critical Business Systems

The easiest way to backup a server is with a server backup solution. These solutions can come in the form of software or appliances. 

Server backup solutions are typically designed to help you backup server data to another local server, a cloud server, or a hybrid system. In particular, backup to hybrid systems is becoming more popular. This is because hybrid systems enable you to optimize resources, support easy multi-region duplication, and can enable faster recovery and failover.

In general, server backup solutions should include the following features:

  • Support for diverse file types—should not include any file types. In particular, solutions should support documents, spreadsheets, media, and configuration files. 
  • Backup location—you should be able to specify backup locations. The solution should support backup to a variety of locations and media, including on and off-site resources.
  • Scheduling and automation—in addition to enabling manual backups, solutions should support backup automation through scheduling. This helps ensure that you always have a recent backup and that backups are created in a consistent manner.
  • Backup management—you should be able to manage the lifecycle of backups, including number stored and length of time kept. Ideally, solutions also enable easy export of backups for transfer to external resources or for use in migration. 
  • Partition selection—partitions are isolated segments of a storage resource and are often used to separate data within a system. Solutions should enable you to independently backup data and restore partitions.
  • Data compression—to minimize the storage needed for numerous backups, solutions should compress backup data. This compression needs to be lossless and maintain the integrity of all data. 
  • Backup type selection—you should be able to create a variety of backup types, including full, differential, and incremental backups. Differential backups create a backup of changes since the last full backup while incremental records the changes since the last incremental backup. These types can help you reduce the size of your backups and speed backup time.
  • Scaling—backup abilities should not be limited by the volume of data on your servers. Solutions should scale as your data does and support backups of any size. 

Backup Storage Technology

Whichever technique you use to backup, at the end of the day, data must be stored somewhere. The storage technology used to hold your backup data is very significant:

  • The more cost-effective it is, the more data it is able to store, and the faster the storage and retrieval over a network, the lower your RPO and RTO will be.
  • The more reliable the storage technology, the safer your backups will be.

Below, you’ll find a review of backup storage technologies and their unique advantages.

Network Shares and NAS

You can set up centralized storage such as Network Attached Storage (NAS ), Storage Area Network (SAN), or regular hard disks mounted as a network share using Network File System (NFS) protocol. This is a convenient option for making large storage available to local devices for backup. However, it is susceptible to disasters affecting your entire data center, such as natural disasters or cyberattacks.

Tape Backup

Modern tape technology such as Linear Tape-Open 8 (LTO-8) can store up to 9 TB of data on a single tape. You can then ship the tape to a distant location, preferably at least 100 miles away from your primary location. Tape backups have been used for decades, but their obvious downside is the extremely high RTO and RPO due to the need to physically ship the tapes to and from a backup location. They also require a tape drive and an autoloader to perform backup and recovery, and this equipment is expensive.

Cloud-Based Object Storage

When using cloud providers, you have access to a variety of storage services. Cloud providers charge a flat price per Gigabyte, but costs can start to add up for frequent access. There are multiple tools that let you backup data to S3 automatically, both from within the cloud and from on-premise machines.

Local Object Storage with Cloudian

Cloudian® HyperStore® is a massive-capacity object storage device that is fully compatible with Amazon S3. It can store up to 1.5 Petabytes in a 4U Chassis device, allowing you to store up to 18 Petabytes in a single data center rack. HyperStore comes with fully redundant power and cooling, and performance features including 1.92TB SSD drives for metadata, and 10Gb Ethernet ports for fast data transfer.

HyperStore is an on-premise data storage solution that can help you perform backups with RPO and RTO near zero, for almost any data volume.

Learn more about Cloudian® HyperStore®.

Learn More About Data Backup and Archive

Ensuring Your Data with Effective Backup Storage

NAS Backup: Supporting the Shared Environment

Using Storage Archives to Secure Data and Reduce Costs

Data Archives and Why You Need Them

Distributed Storage: What’s Inside Amazon S3?

Backup Cloud Storage: Ensuring Business Continuity

Storage Tiering: Making the Most of Your Storage Investment

Private Cloud Storage: Bringing True Cloud Storage In-Hous

Immutable Backups: Why You Need Them and How They Work

Edge Storage: Benefits, Uses, and 5 Key Considerations

Storage Management: Basics and 4 Ways to Maximize Your Storage

Unified Storage: Combining Block-Level and File-Level Storage

See Our Additional Guides on Key Data Breach Topics:

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of data breach.

Data Protection

Authored by Cloudian


Business Continuity Plan

Authored by Faddom


Cloud Security

Authored by HackerOne

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