Backups Vs. Snapshots – Which Should You Use?

Friday, June 01, 2018
Backups Vs. Snapshots – Which Should You Use?

One of the key tools used in the world of cloud storage is that of the snapshot<. It’s how cloud storage systems back up your data, and it’s incredibly important.

Without using data snapshots, your data would be far more vulnerable to attacks then it normally would.

Let’s talk about snapshots today.

Before we talk about what a snapshot is, though, we need to understand the problem with traditional backups, and why a snapshot is necessary.

The Problem With Backups

The traditional method of backing up files is to make a copy of it, and place that copy wherever you happen to be using as your backup.

That works just fine if we’re talking about a single file, or even a few dozen files.

But what happens when you have a large number of files to back up?

If you’ve ever tried copying a terabyte of data from one hard drive to another, you’ll understand how time consuming this process can take. 

Any since many companies may end up with more than a terabyte of data to work with, the process can take a long time.

If your backup is being pushed to an SSD through USB 3.0, this isn’t as big a deal. 

But we’re talking about cloud backups, which by their very nature are backed up through the internet.

So if you have a colossal amount of data to back up, and you’re limited by your internet connection, and you have a number of other users who also need to use that internet connection, you’ve got a bit of a problem. 

It’s just not convenient to upload that much data through the internet.

On top of that, it’s likely that some of your files will be altered during the backup by other members of your organization (unless you plan on shutting down all data-related operations in your company during your backup). 

If that happens, your backup may miss the altered file completely, or it may cause corrupted data.

Again, none of this is an issue if we’re talking about a handful of files being backed up. 

If you’re adding a single spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation to a thumb drive, no sweat. 

But when you have a lot of data to back up, you’ll face the problems above.

What Is A Snapshot

A snapshot is a common way to back up data, used by many different cloud storage providers. 

Like a photograph – hence the name – it captures what your data looks like at a particular moment in time.

Interestingly, a snapshot doesn’t take up any storage space in your backup when it’s first created. 

All it does is copy the metadata from your files, which it uses to track them. 

Because of this, snapshots are created virtually instantly.

What is the snapshot tracking? Any changes made to your files. 

The snapshot creates a virtual hard disk (VHD) which intercepts any changes you make to your files and stores them there. 

It leaves your original files in their unaltered state, which preserves them in case something goes wrong. 

This is a great way to restore files you accidentally deleted.

One of the benefits of using data snapshots is the fact that they’re created instantly, so there isn’t as much labor involved in setting them up. 

They also provide quick and easy access to your data and happen automatically in the background with very little changes made to your regular user experience.

And if you end up experiencing data loss due to human error or corruption of your data, snapshots are a great way to back things up.

RTO Reduction

One of the most significant advantages of snapshots, however, is their ability to help businesses meet their RTOs, or recovery time objectives.

If you suffer some sort of data corruption or situation in which your system is compromised but you can still access your snapshots, your recovery can be very rapid. 

In today’s fast paced, 24/7 always-on business environment, it’s important to be able to recover quickly from problems.

Here at Skybox Cloud, we’re dedicated to helping you recover from any issues as quickly as possible so you can maintain a seamless business as much as possible.


Disadvantages of Snapshots

That said, there are some drawbacks to snapshots.

First of all, they’re designed to automatically update themselves if they detect a change in the file. 

So if, for example, all your files have been encrypted by a piece of ransomware, it’s likely your snapshots have also been compromised. 

This is part of the reason we recommend the 3-2-1 backup rule, which states:

Have at least 3 copies of your data, on at least two different media, one of which is stored off-site.

Also, if you’re running a particularly memory intensive software, like a server processing a lot of transactions, you may run into some issues with snapshots as well. 

Part of the reason for this is that the data is being transferred so frequently that it may interfere with the consistency of your snapshots.

Snapshots In Cloud Storage

Here at Skybox Cloud, we use the latest in leading-edge technology to reduce your backup window and enhance the level of data protection you enjoy, with the goal of providing you with the simplest, most secure cloud storage solution on the market.

To find out more about how Skybox Cloud can help your business meet its cloud storage needs, contact us today.

Go ahead, give us a call at 888-352-4940 or contact us at to speak with one of our knowledgeable and courteous cloud storage experts.

Whatever your cloud storage needs are, Skybox Cloud can help. 

Contact us today and finally take the headache out of cloud storage.

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