The VAR Guy Blog

The Case for Both File and Image-Based Backup

For large-scale disaster recovery, image-based backups are a must. But file backups can help solve the day-to-day data loss situations companies often encounter.

The simplest analogy for comparing file and image-based backup systems is the pen and paper: neither one is complete without the other. Without including both file-based and image-based backup, the final solution will be incomplete and won’t offer the same level of satisfaction to your customers.  

So, while solution providers have the ability to use image-based backups as their sole means of protecting their customers’ data, there are a number of reasons to consider adding a complementary file-based solution to the mix. An image-based solution is an all-or-nothing storage scenario, creating a copy of the operating system and all data associated with it, including the system state and application configurations. Image-based based backups often include a large amount of unnecessary information during every snapshot, including deleted records, empty disk blocks and non-essential, personal files. That process takes a lot of time and consumes significant volumes of storage resources, each adding substantial and unnecessary costs to an organization. It also makes performing a data restore via the cloud impractical.

The alternative option involves saving specific records and folders, allowing providers to backup only the most variable (and most valuable) business information and reducing their customers’ overall storage requirements. Because the load is much lighter, file-based systems send data to the cloud faster and the storage costs are much lower. They also make it simpler and faster for solution providers to retrieve and restore lost or damaged individual records.

After all, retrieving an individual record is much less disruptive than restoring an image of the customer’s entire network. For customers with SQL databases and Microsoft Exchange, some file-based solutions offer special plug-ins that make it easier to backup and restore specific data entries and emails. Rather than retrieving and searching through a full day’s worth of information, this option simplifies the process of looking for missing data or emails. That’s a time-saving bonus for VARs and their customers.

File-based backups protect your customers from the more common day-to-day data loss scenarios that many organizations experience, while image-based solutions are a critical component of any business’s disaster recovery plan. In a worst-case scenario, when a customer’s facilities have been destroyed or shut down for a considerable period of time, it’s best to have both types of backup systems in place. In those situations, file-based solutions allow solution providers to download their customers’ most critical business information to another location almost instantly, giving them the ability to access their most valuable records right away.

Of course, not all data within an organization has equal value. ERP systems and accounting platforms may require a multi-year repository of information, including years of data revisions, while other files can be deleted after 30 days or even sooner. File-based backup solutions give providers and their customers that level of granularity, helping them distinguish between data sets for archiving and retrieval processes.

Image-based backup really proves its value when a long-term outage or disaster occurs, protecting a full complement of system data, settings and files an organization would need to rebuild and possibly bring back online at an alternate location. Without that snapshot of the infrastructure and all its data, complete restoration would be difficult, if not impossible.

With the growth of the remote workforce, more and more employees are working from home or other offsite locations. They may only periodically connect to the corporate network, so backups of the information saved on their PCs, laptops and tablets may be periodic at best. That’s where an effective file-based backup solution is becoming even more critical, backing up all their files anytime they’re connected to the Internet.

The popularity of mobile devices can make managing and effectively backing up the most important business data more challenging. But with the proper implementation and attention to detail in their support, solution providers who learn to master both image and file-based systems will have what it takes to meet all their customers’ short-term and long-term information needs.

For more on how to structure the pricing of your online backup solution to increase profits, see our white paper, “Pricing Online Backup to Your Client Base.” You can also find a steady stream of useful IT information on our Cloud Backup and Recovery blog.

Matt Kowalski is the senior product manager at Intronis, a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery provider that works closely with VARs and MSPs. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy's annual platinum sponsorship.

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