Backup and replication: What’s the difference between the two?

Backup and replication: What’s the difference between the two?

Data backup and data replication are two distinct processes that require different tools and are not interchangeable. They differ in how they are carried out, what form the secondary data takes, and their objectives for organizations that utilize them. Here we’ll define each process, examine their differences, and go over some use cases for each.

Data backup

As the name suggests, data backups are backup copies of large amounts of data. Most often a software program creates these copies at set times (e.g., hourly, nightly, etc.) based on your recovery objectives and how critical the data is being protected. These backup copies are then stored on a separate device from the one where it originated, usually a cloud storage location, an off-site data storage location, or an external storage drive located on premises.

Organizations use backups to protect themselves from data loss that can occur from cyberattacks, accidental deletions, insider threats, or even physical damage to their premises. It is a popular business continuity tool because of its relatively low cost for tools and data storage and its ease of use. Organizations can back up the entirety of their critical IT infrastructure and databases with little effort thanks to automation, and the backups do not require large amounts of storage to be rented or purchased.

With data backup, data is compressed for efficient storage. As such, data backups require less storage space but also must be decompressed before data can be used.

Data replication

Replication may sound the same as backing up, but the main difference lies in how these tasks are carried out. Data replication, unlike backups, occurs in real time. As data is created, a copy is made at the same time to an alternate location. This could be a database or a separate server with different apps and runtimes.

This process enables you to have multiple copies of data on hand to be used for different purposes, including data protection, but also workflow processes. Some organizations need multiple copies of data immediately available for testing or sharing with other parties, so they are all right with using more computing resources to quickly duplicate it.

Key differences

The difference between data backup and data replication can be summed up as follows:

Data backup

• Involves creating backup copies of large amounts of data at set intervals

• Slow to restore, as the data must be reconstructed, often from off-site locations and/or slower media

• Can be stored on physical media on premises or off-site or in the cloud

• Requires less computing resources, as the backup processes are slower and can be initiated during off-peak hours

• Easier and more affordable to set up, automate, and manage
Data replication

• Involves creating duplicates of generated data in real or near-real time

• Immediately available and usable after replication

• Stored at a secondary location, often an off-site data center

• Requires more computing resources and bandwidth during peak operations

• More complex to implement and maintain, requiring careful monitoring and continual adjustment

Use cases

Data backups are used primarily to create data archives and improve recovery point objectives (RPOs) during data loss events. This means that the backups help organizations restore their infrastructure and data as close as possible to the state they were in at the time of the data loss, reducing the amount of work and time lost.

Replication is also useful for preventing data loss, as it ensures there is already a large portion of their IT infrastructure and data available and usable immediately after the data loss event. This improves recovery time objectives (RTOs), reducing the time required to return to full operations. As mentioned above, replication is also useful for organizations that require multiple copies of certain data types for simultaneous operations, among other purposes.

Which is right for your business?

Most businesses can get their data security needs met with data backups, but those with strict RTOs and RPOs, as well as other highly technical organizations, might require replication tools to round out their data protection.

If you’re not sure which setup is right for your Seattle area business, contact the data backup and disaster recovery specialists at Fidelis, and we’ll help assess your goals and make recommendations based on your needs.

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