Types Of Database Backups
Backing up and restoring data is one of the most important responsibilities of IT professionals and MSPs. Yet, in 2014 the Disaster Recovery Council’s annual report found that "three out of four companies are failing to prepare for disaster recovery of their IT systems." Every organization should take advantage of a combination of the three basic types of database backups: full, incremental and differential.
Backups that aren’t completed properly, aren’t run often enough or don’t have a built-in redundancy can be worthless when a full restore is called upon. The worst news a client can hear from an IT service provider is that any piece of valuable data is lost forever.
What Are the Main Types of Backups?
Three common types of database backups can be run on a desired system: normal (full), incremental and differential. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, but multiple database backup approaches can be used together to design a comprehensive server backup and recovery strategy. A customized backup plan can minimize downtime and maximize efficiency.
Before diving into how each backup works and the pros and cons of every type, it’s important to understand how backup software tracks the various files that need to be archived. Whenever a file is created or updated, an archive bit is attached to that file’s filename. One can actually view the archive bit in that file’s properties. The archival bit receives a check mark any time that file has been updated, and the backup software uses this checkbox to track which files on a system are due for archiving.
Normal or Full Backups
When a normal or full backup runs on a selected drive, all the files on that drive are backed up. This, of course, includes system files, application files, user data — everything. Those files are then copied to the selected destination (backup tapes, a secondary drive or the cloud), and all the archive bits are then cleared.
Normal backups are the fastest source to restore lost data because all the data on a drive is saved in one location. The downside of normal backups is that they take a very long time to run, and in some cases this is more time than a company can allow. Drives that hold a lot of data may not be capable of a full backup, even if they run overnight. In these cases, incremental and differential backups can be added to the backup schedule to save time.
A common way to deal with the long running times required for full backups is to run them only on weekends. Many businesses then run incremental backups throughout the week since they take far less time. An incremental backup will grab only the files that have been updated since the last normal backup. Once the incremental backup has run, that file will not be backed up again unless it changes or during the next full backup.
While incremental database backups do run faster, the recovery process is a bit more complicated. If the normal backup runs on Saturday and a file is then updated Monday morning, should something happen to that file on Tuesday, one would need to access the Monday night backup to restore it.
For one file, that’s not too complicated. However, should an entire drive be lost, one would need to restore the normal backup, plus each and every incremental backup run since the normal backup.
An alternative to incremental database backups that has a less complicated restore process is a differential backup. Differential backups and recovery are similar to incremental in that these backups grab only files that have been updated since the last normal backup. However, differential backups do not clear the archive bit. So a file that is updated after a normal backup will be archived every time a differential backup is run until the next normal backup runs and clears the archive bit.
Similar to our last example, if a normal backup runs on Saturday night and a file gets changed on Monday, that file would then be backed up when the differential backup runs Monday night. Since the archive bit will not be cleared, even with no changes, that file will continue to be copied on the Tuesday night differential backup and the Wednesday night differential backup and every additional night until a normal backup runs again capturing all the drive’s files and resetting the archive bit.
A restore of that file, if needed, could be found in the previous night’s tape. In the event of a complete drive failure, one would need to restore the last normal backup and only the latest differential backup. This is less time consuming than an incremental backup restore. However, each night that a differential backup runs, the backup files get larger and the time it takes to run the backup lengthens.
There is a fourth, less common form of backup, known as daily backups. This is usually saved for mission-critical files. If files that are updated constantly cannot wait a full twenty-four hours for the nightly backup to run and capture them, daily backups are the best choice. This type of backup uses the file’s timestamp, not the archive bit, to update the file once changes are made. This type of database backup runs during business hours, and having too many of these files can impact network speeds.
What MSPs Need From Backup and Recovery Software
MSPs have specific needs when it comes to backup software. Providing services for a variety of businesses means navigating a variety of IT networks and infrastructures. Each client has a different list of needs when it comes to database backup and recovery, and the equipment and access can vary widely with each location. With all these different variables to consider, a feature-rich backup software is necessary.
Reliability is also a critical point in choosing database backup software. According to Boston Computing Network:
- 34% of companies fail to test their tape backups
- 77% of those companies found tape back-up failures
- 60% of companies that lose their data close within six months of the failure
When customers trust an MSP to do their backups, they are trusting that provider with their businesses’ future.
MSP Backup & Recovery From SolarWinds MSP
SolarWinds MSP (formerly LOGICnow) provides speedy backups, layers of network security and flexibility in database recovery and support. This backup software provides everything clients could possibly need, from quick and easy bare metal backups using just a bootable USB, to virtual system restores in the event of a true disaster that makes using the original equipment impossible.
No matter what situation or type of backing up and recovery is being done, MSP Backup & Recovery will complete the task fast. True Delta Technology tracks file changes at the block level, only copying what has changed and allowing for backups during business hours, along with simultaneous archiving to local and cloud destinations. It’s compatible across multiple platforms including VMware, Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and more.
Restores also happen at lightning speed since the software automatically chooses the fastest recovery source, whether that be cloud or local, and the hybrid cloud architecture allows for greater redundancy and backups that are always in sync.
Experience how streamlined and easy your various types of database backups can be while maintaining the highest levels of security. Try MSP Backup & Recovery free for 30 days. Start a free trial today!
Boston Computing: www.bostoncomputing.net/consultation/databackup/statistics
Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council: http://drbenchmark.org/benchmark-survey/drp-annual-report