The advantages of cloud storage for your backups

Cloud storage is getting cheaper and cheaper while Internet broadband connections are getting faster and faster – actuallly not everywhere and not at the same pace.

So cloud storage is becoming more interesting not only for consumers (that already uses it to share files and store photos), but also for companies.

You should consider to adopt cloud storage for your backups at least for 4 reasons:

  • Infrastructure management: cloud storage is managed by the cloud provider, you don’t need to take care of hardware, software and data redundancy
  • Variable costs vs fixed costs: you only pay for what you use
  • Scalability: disk occupation peaks aren’t a problem anymore
  • Location: a far more easier way to have backups located out of your headquarters

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Differences between System Image and System State backup

Windows Server, since its first version, offers the possibility to perform a System State backup alongside the most usual System Image backup (not available on Windows Server 2003).

The differences between the two modes are huge but not clear to everyone.

A System Image backup is a copy of the system drives and, eventuall, of other drives, of a physical or a virtual machine.

This backup can be used to restore from the ground the full system and includes everything.

According to Microsoft, a System State backup includes the following:

  • Boot files, including the system files, and all files protected by Windows File Protection (WFP)
  • Active Directory (on a domain controller only)
  • Sysvol (on a domain controller only)
  • Certificate Services (on certification authority only)
  • Cluster database (on a cluster node only)
  • The registry
  • Performance counter configuration information
  • Component Services Class registration database

So it’s a far more lightweight backup: faster, with less disk occupation, but with reduced restore capabilities.

We suggest to perform System State backup only if you have already scheduled regular System Image backups. Otherwise, there could be real problems in case of disaster.

Choose the best backup retention policies

Backups are usually confused with redundancy. They both protect our important data but at a different level and in a different way.

While a RAID 1 setup may save your day more or less like a full disk image in case of failure, it won’t be as useful in case of human errors or data corruption.

Mantaining previous versions of your files is really important, but what retention policies should you enact for your business or your customers?
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The difference between full, incremental and differential backup

A common question regarding backup schemes and practices is “What’s the difference between full, incremental and differential backup”?

While it’s possible to protect your data using all these backup types, they bring pros and cons you need to consider before adopting them.

Starting from the principles, a solid backup scheme should:

  • copy your important data to different backup destinations;
  • allow you to restore previous versions of the backed up files (data retention policies);
  • be a good trade-off between security and storage space occupation.

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