Top 5 Methods of Backing Up Data and Why

Tips & Resources Feb 25, 2020

Tim Li

Technical Writer

No matter how it occurs, sooner or later data loss will happen. If you don’t have a good backup strategy in place, you could lose important files forever. Due to the ubiquity of digital data, there are now many backup methods available, each with their pros and cons. But which method is best for you? Let’s take a look at the top 5 methods of backing up data and why.


5. Tape Drives -

Prominent before the Digital Age, tape backup is a classic data protection approach where data is stored on magnetic tapes. Given its inherent stability and longevity, tape backup is still often a popular cold backup method for offsite, long-term storage of data that don’t need to be accessed often. Many businesses still prefer to use tape backup as a secure backup option for compliance purposes, as tape backup is free from cyberthreats such as ransomware.

While tape backup is a secure offline backup option, its rigidity makes it a less attractive option for many businesses. Tape backup often leads to additional storage facility and personnel costs. Most importantly, writing data to tapes can consume an enormous amount of time, and data stored to tapes is not easily accessible. This often limits the type of data that can be backed up using tape drives.


4. Flat Backup Systems -

Utilizing block-level snapshots, flat backup systems have been touted as an alternative “backup-less” backup solution that provides a simple, hassle-free way to protect data. A snapshot is essentially a set of reference markers for data on a system at a particular point in time. If changes to the data are made, you can easily revert to a previous point in time using a snapshot. Snapshots are easy to create and take up very little space, and because snapshots are based on the same data on a system, restoring from a snapshot is fast.

However, snapshots include some drawbacks. Snapshots are typically stored and maintained on the same storage system that is hosting the original data. If the system that a snapshot is based on fails, all snapshots associated with that system become useless. Another challenge is that typically, snapshots cannot be indexed, so the only way to locate a snapshot for a specific data version is to browse through the entire snapshot repository. When using only snapshots for data protection, this difficulty in locating a particular version can be a problem, especially if snapshots are created at frequent intervals.


3. Cloud Storage Services -

While technically not a backup service, by storing files online, cloud storage can serve as a means for backup. Cloud storage typically lets you store files online using services such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, or Microsoft OneDrive. If your hard drive fails, you’ll still have copies of the files online (and any other devices that data was copied to). Many cloud storage services allow you to automatically sync local folders with the online repository for a rudimentary backup.

Cloud storage is designed to store files online so they can be easily accessed from anywhere to be worked. This accessibility comes at a cost of lower data security, as cloud storage services rarely encrypt data not in transit, leaving it vulnerable to unauthorized access and data breaches. Another issue for many businesses is that cloud storage can lead to unpredictable prices. If recovery is needed, sudden spikes of bandwidth can quickly derail costs if not planned for.


2. Online Backup Services -

Like cloud storage, online backup services are designed for you to upload a large number of files, and sometimes your file systems, to an online repository. Some also offer options where you can automatically back up your entire system to the cloud at designated intervals. Because the files are not meant to be shared, online backup services provide more data security than cloud storage, and often offers multiple restore options to help you recover your data quickly.

However, online backup services also run into the same issues as cloud storage with uneven pricing. For many businesses, wrestling with unforeseen bandwidth costs can consume a great deal of energy, as many online backup services have additional limits on upload speed and amount.


1. Network Attached Storage (NAS) -

Many businesses opt to use NAS devices as backup servers for a secure and comprehensive backup solution. Utilizing a NAS as part of your storage area network (SAN) can offer the most flexibility when it comes to storage and backup, as you can create a personal cloud: you can back up critical data to a local device for easy access and restoration while backing up nonessential data at an offsite location for safety. NAS devices may also be set up to automatically back up onto the cloud so that you can sync your data with cloud services such as Dropbox or Amazon S3.

While this is a popular and reliable backup method, many businesses often don’t want to incur the hardware costs of having to build a separate network or expand their current IT infrastructure. With some careful planning, you can actually offset these costs and save money in the long run. For example, you can use iSCSI to assemble various storage devices on the same network, or use SAN-to-SAN replication to securely back up data on a local device to a remote location for additional security.


Use Multiple Methods as a Safeguard

Since each backup method has their pros and cons, the best backup method you should use is actually a mix of the options listed above. Most businesses already use multiple backup methods in tandem as a safeguard against various contingencies. For example, many modern strains of ransomware will wipe your local backups along with your files. Having both onsite (local) backups and offsite (remote) backups can help cast a wider safety net for you.

Buffalo recommends the established 3-2-1 backup method: keep three copies of your data, with two copies onsite and one copy offsite. Having a secure, isolated backup location is the best way to protect your data from both internal and external threats.

Need more help? Buffalo provides award-winning storage solutions that are reliable and cost-effective. Contact us today to see how we can help you set up the perfect data backup solution that meets your needs.

- Whether you are backing up for home or business learn how to do this with ease here.