Storage Snapshots vs Backup Software: The Key to True Data Reliability

In a world where data availability and integrity are paramount to the success of an organization, IT administrators are always looking for the best way to secure their data and keep the business running. One essential component of this strategy is backup and disaster recovery. A number of options are available to IT departments looking to introduce data redundancy into their environment. In general, two of the most popular strategies to achieve this are by taking snapshots on a storage device, such as a SAN, or using a traditional backup software solution.

From a high level, both options will achieve the intended outcome of creating redundant copies of your data. However, in an actual production environment, there are several things to consider before making a decision.

Taking snapshots with a storage device seems enticing, especially if the storage device already exists in the environment. There is no need to buy extra hardware to store the snapshots and storage snapshots are generally quick, easy, and non-intrusive. In addition, most storage devices allow for snapshots to be replicated to another system for disaster recovery purposes.

However, there are many downsides to relying on storage snapshots as your sole means of backup. For example, data corruption won’t be detected by storage snapshots, so if the original data is corrupted on the SAN, it will remain so in the snapshot. Many backup software products, such as Quest’s Rapid Recovery, provide proactive data corruption checks that will test database backups against live instances of the relevant application to confirm that the data is useable and corruption free, eliminating uncertainty of successful restoration.

Another drawback of storage only data protection is the availability of long term retention. Storage snapshots must remain stored on the device itself. An enterprise backup product, such as Quest’s NetVault Backup will be able to offload backups to a variety of storage devices to meet various retention needs, including tape, locally attached disks, or network storage devices such as a SAN or NAS. This provides you the ability to keep data for as long as your company policy requires, without worrying about filling up space on your production storage device.

Speaking of hardware constraints, if an Administrator decides to change hardware vendors, they will be out of luck with the snapshots taken on their previous storage device. Most backup products are hardware agnostic and can transfer data between storage devices if you change the vendor that supplies your hardware.

Finally, many backup products are offering integration with public cloud providers. Quest’s Rapid Recovery can archive directly to major cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon S3, and Rackspace. In addition, Rapid Recovery offers the ability to replicate directly to a backup server in Microsoft Azure to provide for fast and reliable disaster recovery. NetVault Backup can also send data directly to Amazon S3 through the use of a VTL gateway. This cloud integration allows customers flexibility in disaster recovery, especially if a co-location or remote site is not available to them otherwise.

In the end, both storage snapshots and traditional backups have their advantages. If you have the means, pairing storage snapshots alongside a traditional backup software will provide comprehensive protection of your environment without compromising features and capabilities. If you would like more information about Quest’s backup offerings, please visit our website at