Snapshot vs Backup

Snapshot vs Backup

Data loss is when information systems are corrupted, deleted, or unrecoverable. It occurs due to neglect in storage, transmission, or processing.

While data loss may seem unavoidable, it can be prevented with a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy.

An efficient backup strategy consists of snapshots and backups. It ensures data is backed up and available for restoration in the case of a data loss.

What is a Backup?

What is a Backup? - Snapshot vs Backup

Backup is the process of copying and archiving data in secondary storage. A full backup file is a complete standalone replica of your system files. The process includes selecting, extracting, and manipulating data for storage.

Backups can deal with live data. It includes open files, as well as compression, encryption, and duplication.

Data preserved by backup can be restored when required. You can restore an entire set of files and applications.

Multiple copies of backups can be saved on multiple drives or clouds. Storing the copy of the data helps protects against data loss or corruption.

There are multiple storage options for backups:

  • Removable media - USB
  • External hard drive
  • Network Attached Storage
  • Cloud storage
  • Backup software

Different Types of Backup

1. Full Backup

Full backup essentially makes a backup of all system data. It stores a copy of your organization's data assets in their entirety. The process backs up all files into a single version.

Full backup demands a large storage space and a longer time. However, it requires minimal time to restore data.

2. Incremental Backup

Incremental backup makes a backup of only new or modified data (increments). The copy contains only the portion of data that has changed since the last backup.

It saves time and disk space by only backing up changed files. Each increment is an individual recovery point.

3. Differential Backup

Differential backup falls between full backup and incremental backup.

It contains all the data that have changed since the last full backup. This includes files that were newly created or updated.

Differential backup uses two backup components:

  • An initial full backup
  • The latest differential backup

It takes less storage space than full backups. Also performs restoration faster than incremental backups.

What is a Snapshot?

What is a Snapshot? - Snapshot vs Backup

Snapshots capture the state of the entire file system at a specific point in time. It is a record comprised of metadata that defines where and how the data was stored.

The record could be an image, volume, or database file. Snapshot is used to restore a system, virtual machine, and disk to an operational state. It provides an effective way to “roll back” data to the state before the error.

Snapshot is also referred to as an image backup.

It is used in backup processes to restore data at a specific time.

Use of Snapshots

  • Testing or development environments
  • Configuring changes in the system
  • Recovery from hardware failure, data corruption, or power outage
  • File versioning - roll back to a previous version of a file

Snapshot vs Backup: What's the Difference?

Snapshot Backup
A snapshot is a “picture” of your server at the present period of time. Backup is a complete replica of your data files.
Snapshots must always be stored in the same places as the original system data. Backups can be stored in separate locations. It does not require on-site storage.
Cannot restore data if the primary storage location is deleted. Ability to restore data if the primary storage location is deleted.
Snapshots can be made of different types of systems. These include files, apps, settings, etc. Backup files only include the file system.
Snapshot is quick to save and prompt restore. Backup processes can take a long time to complete, depending on the volume of data.
Short-term storage. New snapshots eventually overwrite the older ones. Backups files are saved for the long term.
Uses less storage space. Requires high storage space.
Snapshots are only given in VPS and cloud services. Traditional backups can be done on any system.

Combine Snapshots and Backups

Perform backups with snapshots to secure data and maintain high reliability.

Snapshots are excellent for testing or development environments. It can be used as a part of backup but should not be considered as an actual backup.

Backups are excellent at securing data in the long run. They protect you better from a system or drive failure. You can use backups to secure full data backup off-site.

Learn more about data and server security from CloudPanel.

Shraddha S.
Shraddha S.
Technical Writer

With a master in Computer Science, Shraddha Singh has a lot of thoughts about Technology and the Cloud Services Industry. An Indian native and a professional Technical writer, she gets her management skills from IIT-B.


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