Understanding the Difference Between Backup and Replication


Did you know that we couldn't have zettabytes of data before 2012? Now, we live in the age of data where more than 40 zettabytes (or 40 trillion gigabytes) of data online. New data is constantly being generated. On top of that, organizations are constantly backing up their data and replicating it, creating business continuity plans, organizing incident response policies, and strategizing how to recover IT assets, further adding to the mountains of data they are responsible for.

Backup and replication are the go-to solutions to keep long-term records, enhance cybersecurity capabilities and ensure that business goes on as usual in the face of a disaster. But which one's the right option for managed service providers (MSPs) and/or their clients?  

What do you do with all that data?

With a dizzying volume of data comes great accountability and responsibility. Data loss can be a death blow to your business, as made evident by the fact that 60% of small businesses impacted by a data breach shut down. Depending on what kind of data is lost, you could also be liable to customers, compounding the impact even further.

There's no denying that businesses need a system that not only empowers them but also protects their sensitive data. With so many data backup and storage choices available in the market, selecting the right one to handle the right scenario can be difficult. Do you backup, or replicate? And what’s the difference between backup and replication?

Data backup
Data backup involves periodically copying your business's existing files or data blocks to some external media or a secondary site. It preserves data and helps restore lost or corrupted data in case of a malfunction or disaster at the server site. 

Backing up your data is essential to a disaster recovery plan using compression and deduplication, i.e., removing duplicated data entries. Since the backup is separated from the network and office, it is protected from anything and everything that can harm your business. 

Data replication
Data replication mirrors the data stored on a server to another server (or servers) almost instantaneously, depending on your network setup. It makes an exact copy of information saved on your network at any given time, making it ideal for quickly restoring access of critical data and applications after a malfunction. 

After the first replication, further duplications will merely synchronize the changes made since the last replication. It's great for ensuring continuous access to the processes and applications your business needs to function. Replication is often used for mission-critical applications that must run at any cost. 

Can I use these options interchangeably?
Data backups are performed using a cloud-based or hosted server, which never has the same level of continuity as data replication. Your business might still suffer from downtime, even though you have proper backups. 

Moreover, replication does create instant copies of data, but in case those files are erased or corrupted, the damage will spread to each replicated server by the time you realize something is wrong, recovery would be beyond your control.  

Backup vs. replication: Recovery efficiencies

The efficiency of a disaster recovery (DR) plan is measured by a recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). RTO is the threshold for how speedily your business needs to have an application's information restored. RPO is how recent the information must be restored to escape damaging data loss for the company after a disaster, or in other words, the maximum amount of data that can lost expressed in time.

Relying on backups for your data recovery strategy would give you a higher RPO than replication. However, data restoration takes time; depending on the size, it will generally take longer to restore a backup. 

Although some businesses can survive one day of a dysfunctional system, but not all companies can tolerate it. Hence, data replication is better for those with a low tolerance for data loss and time. The best part of relying on replication for a data recovery plan is that it has near to zero RPOs. When your business is configured with redundant server infrastructures, data replication offers near to instantaneous RTO as well. It's simply because the data is saved in its original size and ready to be used on hardware (or a virtual machine) that is identical to the original.

On average, data can be recovered within minutes using the replication process. It can, however, become expensive to constantly replicate large workloads of data over time, which brings us to the cost difference between backup and replication.

Is one more affordable than the other?

Costs for replication and backup vary depending on the volume of data. As such, we base our comparison on infrastructure requirements. Bear in mind, both replication and backup require unique software built for the purpose.

Backup costs
Backup is a relatively inexpensive way to avoid complete data loss. That's because backup usually involves providing some storage device, a location for the storage media (on-site server), and a backup program to run the business operations.

Replication costs
Replication necessitates investment in another infrastructure to keep the copy in sync with the original data. In short, it doubles your expenses. For example, to deliver replication for a storage center, one would need to set up computer storage with the same capacity as a primary storage system at a remote site. As a result, all this entails substantial hardware costs.

Backup or replication? Selecting the most beneficial option for you

Data backup
Data backup helps with compliance and granular recovery, such as long-term archival of corporate archives. It's great for businesses that can afford downtime to restore the last backup.

However, restoring a backup will not necessarily revert your server to the most recent version of your data. Instead, it will revert to a status dating from several hours or days ago, depending on your backup schedule. 

Data replication
Data replication and recovery emphasize disaster recovery. As a result, it delivers quick and easy resumption of operations even after corruption. Replication occurs in the following types:

  • Synchronous: simultaneously copying data as the original data changes while requiring confirmation.
  • Asynchronous: snapshots are used for a point-in-time copy of data that has been changed and sent to the recovery site according to a specific schedule.
  • Near-synchronous: replicates only changed data as it’s being changed without any confirmations.

Pro tip: You probably want both
It’s entirely possible that both data backup and replication together will create the best business continuity and disaster recovery plan for your business. Creating policies for both solutions will ensure they’re utilized according to the needs of your organization. For example, you might use data replication services to maintain business-critical workloads that ensure the lights stay on in case of an emergency, but backup for archived data that doesn’t need to be restored immediately.

Whichever route you take, the key takeaway is that your business needs a solid plan to safeguard and restore sensitive information. Without one, your cybersecurity bases simply aren’t covered.

Grow your business with backup as a service

Every MSP needs its own disaster recovery plan to ensure long-term survival, but offering backup and replication to clients also represents an opportunity to grow your business. Reach out to our experts at Sherweb to learn more about how we can help make cloud backup a part of your offering.

Explore Sherweb’s Partner Guide for more information about how a value-added cloud solutions partner can benefit your business. You can also check out their portfolio of cybersecurity solutions, hand-selected for MSP clients. Read more Sherweb guest blogs hereRegularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.