What is data protection backup?

Data protection backup refers to creating copies of data to protect against data loss or corruption. It allows users to restore their data from a backup in the event of hardware failure, accidental deletion, malware or ransomware attacks, natural disasters, and other scenarios that could lead to data loss.

Why is data backup important?

Data backup is critical for a few key reasons:

  • Prevents data loss – Backups provide a way to recover lost or corrupted data due to hardware failure, software issues, human error, malware, and more. Without backups, data loss can be catastrophic and irreversible.
  • Enables disaster recovery – Backups make it possible to restore data and resume operations quickly after catastrophic events like fires, floods, or ransomware attacks that damage production systems and data.
  • Supports compliance – Many regulations require retention of data for set time periods. Backups provide a way to store and recover historic data as needed.
  • Allows recovery from unintended changes – Backups provide a way to restore older versions of data that may have been accidentally changed or deleted.
  • Provides data archiving – Backups can serve as archives of historic data no longer needed for daily operations but that may hold business value.

Without reliable backups, organizations put themselves at major risk of disruption, data loss, and non-compliance in the event of data corruption, systems failure, or disaster.

What data should be backed up?

Organizations should develop data backup plans that align with their recovery objectives, compliance needs, and resources. Critical systems and data that organizations typically prioritize for backup include:

  • Databases – Databases contain application data and configurations that are essential for restoring services. Backing up databases protects against data loss from storage failures, disasters, and errors.
  • File servers – File servers hold documents, repositories, shared files and other business data. They are often backup priorities.
  • Email systems – Email contains communications and information that are difficult to recreate. Email backups help recover from outages and mailbox corruption.
  • ERP systems – Critical business platforms like ERP, CRM, HRM, and accounting systems house essential configurations and operational data that organizations cannot afford to lose.
  • Images – Image backups allow recovery of files from shared directories and immutable system images used for cloning and recovery.

What are the different types of backup?

There are several core data backup approaches and methods:

Full backups

Full backups, also known as image backups, copy all specified data. This allows restoring the entire dataset from a specific point in time.

Incremental backups

Incremental backups capture only data changed since the last backup. This makes them faster and storage-efficient. Multiple incrementals between full backups provide greater recovery flexibility.

Differential backups

Differential backups save all changes since the last full backup. Recovery requires restoring the last full backup and then the latest differential backup.

Reverse Incremental backups

Reverse incrementals save changes since the last incremental backup. It requires only the most recent incremental to restore the full dataset.

Synthetic full backups

Synthetic fulls consolidate incrementals into a full backup without actually running a full backup. This maximizes efficiency.

Snapshot-based backups

Snapshot backups capture point-in-time images of data rather than just changed blocks. This allows faster recovery than traditional backups.

Application-aware backups

Application-aware software integrates with apps like SQL Server to allow backups without taking databases offline.

Agent-based backups

Agent-based backups leverage software agents on sources to efficiently capture and transmit data to backup storage.

Agentless backups

Agentless backups rely on APIs and network access to capture backups without requiring backup agents.

What are the most common backup schedules?

Backup schedules help ensure backups run as frequently as needed to meet recovery objectives. Some common schedules include:

  • Daily – Daily backups are useful for smaller data sets. They limit exposure to data loss.
  • Weekly – Weekly full backups with daily incrementals help optimize storage efficiency while supporting granular recovery.
  • Monthly – Monthly full backups with incremental backups are common for compliance/archival purposes.
  • Continuous – Continuous data protection streams backups to offer nearly instantaneous restores but requires ample bandwidth and storage.

Backup schedules are tailored to the criticality of data. Mission-critical systems often use more frequent and redundant backups. Archival data may require only monthly or quarterly backups.

What are the main backup media types?

There are several primary media types used for backups today:


Disk provides fast, reliable and cost-effective backup storage. Disk includes SAN, NAS, SSD and HDD targets. Key traits:

  • High performance
  • Instant data access
  • Scalable capacity
  • Supports data deduplication and compression


Magnetic tape offers high capacity for long-term data retention at a low cost. However, tape is slower and less accessible than disk. Key traits:

  • Cost-efficient at scale
  • Built for archiving
  • Easily removable for offsite storage
  • Slow data retrieval times


Cloud backup services provide scalable, flexible storage without hardware management. Key traits:

  • No hardware to manage
  • Potential lower costs
  • Scales on demand
  • Securing backups in public clouds carries risk

What are the most common backup storage targets?

Organizations use a variety of storage targets to retain backup data:

  • SAN (storage area network) – Shared storage accessible from multiple servers
  • NAS (network-attached storage) – File-level storage devices connected to a network
  • Direct-attached storage – Storage directly connected to a server
  • Tape libraries – Devices managing multiple tape cartridges for sequential access
  • Public cloud storage – Object storage services from vendors like AWS, Microsoft and Google
  • Private cloud storage – Internal cloud storage platforms leveraging disk and tape

Organizations often use a tiered storage model to balance performance, retention and cost across backup targets. Short-term backups go on disk while long-term archives are stored on tape or cloud object storage.

What are the leading data backup solutions?

The backup market offers robust solutions for enterprises to protect and recover data. Leading enterprise backup products include:

Backup Solution Key Features
Veritas NetBackup Policy-driven backup automation, global deduplication, cloud integration
Commvault Unified data protection across on-prem and cloud, Ansible playbooks
Veeam VMware & Hyper-V support, instant VM recovery, ransomware protection
Dell EMC Avamar App-focused protection, variable-length deduplication, granular recovery
IBM Spectrum Protect Workload-optimized backups, data replication, tape support
Rubrik Automated workflows, immutable backups, hybrid cloud support
Cohesity Converged secondary storage, global variable dedupe, web-scale platform

Leading solutions offer broad platform support, automation, data efficiency, cloud integration and recovery granularity.

What are some key factors when choosing a backup solution?

Important criteria to evaluate when selecting an enterprise backup product include:

  • Breadth of platform support – Support for your critical applications, hypervisors, operating systems and hardware platforms.
  • Scalable architecture – Ability to grow with data needs without disruption.
  • Data efficiency – Inline deduplication, compression and optimization for storage efficiency.
  • Recovery flexibility – Granular recovery from any point in time across mixed workloads.
  • Cloud support – Capabilities aligning on-prem and cloud data protection.
  • Automation capabilities – Rules-based automation for ease of management at scale.
  • Security features – Encryption, access controls and data integrity checks.
  • Cost – Total cost of ownership including licensing, hardware and operational expenses.

What are some best practices for data backup?

Follow these best practices to help ensure your data backup strategy delivers robust protection:

  • Define backup policies aligned to data value, change rates and recovery requirements.
  • Follow the 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies of data, on 2 different media, 1 copy offsite.
  • Perform regular test restores to validate backup integrity.
  • Encrypt backups and protect media from unauthorized access.
  • Use immutable backups and isolated backups as protection against ransomware.
  • Store backups far enough apart to avoid a single disaster destroying all copies.
  • Document detailed recovery procedures to enable reliable recovery.
  • Send backup alerts to appropriate teams to rapidly detect and resolve issues.
  • Retire older media on schedule before data is lost to degradation.

What are some top data backup challenges?

Common backup challenges include:

  • Data growth – Backups must scale cost-effectively to handle growing data volumes.
  • Legacy systems – Outdated platforms often lack native backup capabilities.
  • Meeting SLAs – Backup windows must not impede production operations and SLAs.
  • App consistency – Creating application-consistent backups of complex systems is difficult.
  • Hybrid environments – Protecting across on-premises, cloud, SaaS and edge requires integration.
  • Compliance – Keeping years of backups to meet retention policies strains budgets.
  • Security – Ransomware and insider threats put backup data at risk if not properly secured.

Modern data protection platforms use technologies like data deduplication, application integration, and cloud tiering to help overcome these challenges.


Data backup provides the last line of defense against data loss. Aligning backup approaches to an organization’s unique requirements allows cost-effective data protection at scale. Leading enterprise backup solutions deliver sophisticated engines optimized for today’s workloads together with automation, data efficiency, instant recovery and cloud integration to tackle evolving demands. With comprehensive data protection in place, organizations can confidently unlock more business value from their data.

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