Previously in the Nutbourne blog we have spoken about how data can be lost, the methods used to recover data and how data backup can be a lifesaver. We’ve even dipped into the strategy you should use for backups. This time, however, we’re going to dive deeper into the world of data backups. We’re taking a look at different data backup methods and an example of a data backup strategy to help you plan your backup schedule.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to your data backup strategy. It can be tough to know where to begin, but that’s why we’re here to help! For starters, let’s take a look at some different data backup methods and weigh up the pros and cons of each one.
Full Data Backup
This first method is self-explanatory, but this is a full backup of an entire data set. Should you suffer catastrophic data loss, this is the data set you want available to recover as quickly as possible. For this reason, it is a very desirable method, but alas, it can be a heavy hitter when it comes to resource usage. A full backup can take a long time to complete, as you could imagine. It is essentially copying every single file on your system to store on another location. Not only can this take a long time and use server resources, but it also takes up a lot of space on your storage location.
A full data backup is essential to your business’ disaster recovery plan, but it may only be necessary to perform it once a week or even once a month to save on time and resources. Using it in conjunction with the following backup methods will provide the best backup strategy.
Incremental backups only deal with the changes to your data set. This means only new files and files that have had edits made to them since the last incremental backup will be included. It is a good idea to run incremental backups at least daily to ensure you have a recent backup in case of disaster. This method is useful as you can keep down storage space, as well as interrupting the work day as little as possible by using less server resources.
The issue with incremental backups is that restoring data will take longer than it would with a full backup. The main data set will have to be restored and then each incremental backup after that. This shouldn’t be a very time-consuming process on top of a full restore, but it can add up if you are working with a lot of data. This can also become a problem if a single backup fails, as then the rest of the “backup chain” may fail to restore. You could lose several days of data if this is not managed correctly.
Differential backups are similar to incremental backups in regards to why they are used. They save on resources and storage space compared to a full backup and can be ran daily without much hassle. Similarly to incremental backups, only changes to the full data set are backed up. However, the difference here is that it is backing up changes since the full backup, rather than the last increment. This speeds up recovery time, as you will only have to restore the full backup and then one differential backup with the changes. The only downside is that the storage requirements are higher than they are with incremental backups.
Mirror backups are also known as a full image backup. This is a complete copy of your full data set. No changes are tracked with this method as it is just a copy. The benefit to having a mirror backup is that files are not compressed the same as in all the other methods. Of course, compressing files reduces storage space, but it can also make it take longer to restore files. This is especially true when you are just trying to restore a single file rather than a whole day’s worth of data. This is an incredibly fast way of restoring data, but it also takes up a huge amount of storage space. Another negative to mirrors is that if files are removed from the source backup file, they are also removed from the mirror. This method can’t protect you from every reason for data loss.
So, now that we know about the different types of backup, it’s time to talk strategy. One schedule that is widely used in the backup industry is called the GFS backup strategy. This is short for the Grandfather-Father-Son strategy. The purpose of this schedule is to make data backup manageable. You need to strike a good compromise between resource usage, recovery speed and how long you are storing your datasets for.
Ideally, you’d have access to every file at any point in time, to have the ultimate protection, but this just isn’t feasible to manage and the storage requirements would be astronomical. The GFS backup strategy allows you to store a full backup for a whole year, but keeps the overall storage requirements down to a minimum.
What does the GFS backup strategy look like?
The GFS strategy consists of 3 different levels of backup. For starters, there is the Grandfather. This is a full backup, usually performed once a month. It is a complete snapshot of the data set and should be stored in a secure offsite location.
Next up is the Father. This is a full backup as well, except it is ran weekly and stored on-site. It can be accessed a lot faster this way.
Finally, there is the Son. The Son consists of much more regular, incremental backups, which are normally ran on a daily basis, although can be even more regular if it is important for you to restore data from as recently as possible.
This strategy means that you have 7 recovery points in total every week. Should there be a major disaster, you’ll always have the Grandfather data set to fall back on. You can also stretch or shrink this strategy based on your requirements for data retention.
If you need help setting up your data backups or coming up with a data backup strategy, we’re here to help.
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