Backing up data is the process of taking a copy of current working data and policing it onto a second storage device either on the computer system, or preferably in a separate location. The reason for creating data backups is to protect the data in case a hardware error occurs causing accidental data loss, or data is deleted either maliciously or through human error.
Sometimes we refer to the data that has been backed up as redundant data as it is not currently in use.
Data may be backed up either manually or automatically – manual backups require human interaction, the data is taken and manually pasted onto another storage device. This is not recommended as humans are prone to error and may forget to take the back up entirely or may miss important files. If a critical error occurs and data has not been sufficiently backed up, then it may be lost forever.
Automatic backups run on a schedule, taking a backup of the systems data on a regular basis without human interaction making the data far more secure.
The backups that can be taken may happen in several different ways depending upon the system:
Full backups, sometimes referred to as mirrors, take an entire copy off the storage device and save it onto another storage device. Whilst full backups will ensure at all data has been captured, backup files will end up taking up a lot of space unless older backups are deleted. This is also quite inefficient as some files may not have changed for some time.
A more efficient way to backup data is by using incremental backups. Incremental backups take copies on any files that have changed since the last backup was taken, therefore updating the backup file to represent a true copy of the current system whilst not copying files needlessly. This type of backup is most often seen in large systems where backups must take place during working hours.
Offsite Backup / Cloud Backup
Whilst backup files may be saved to a different storage device in the same physical location, should physical damage occur to the computer system such as fire or flood, the backup files would also be destroyed. One way of addressing this is to send the backup files to another physical location such as using cloud backups. As we have seen before the cloud is simply a server which is connected to the Internet, therefore a cloud backup is redundant data which is saved online.
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