Intro to Backups


Introduction

As the amount of data we create continues to grow, the amount of data we lose increases in tandem. According to worldbackupday.com, 21% of people have never made a backup! For those people, experiencing data loss can mean that data is lost forever. Creating a backup ensures that this is not the case and data loss is only a temporary set back.

“World Backup Day is a day for people to learn about the increasing role of data in our lives and the importance of regular backups.”

- worldbackupday.com

Creating a single day to highlight the importance of this part of digital security is great, and for Team Macrium, it’s our entire lifes’ work. As our motto states “It’s our business to protect your data”. We are proud to create reliable software so that you can be confident your data is secure.

“Here at Macrium Software, we design solutions to protect the most valuable asset in the world - your data.  We’re dedicated to creating dependable software, providing quality service, and maintaining superior relationships with our customers and partners. We love what we do and we take pride in our success.”

- Macrium Software

You don’t have to look much further than our TrustPilot reviews to see how many lives are changed by our work.

Macrium Reflect can be used to create disk images and clones to protect your data. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between images and clones and help decide which is right for you.

Disk Imaging

A disk image stores the data required to restore disks or partitions to the state that they were in when the disk image was created. The data is compressed into an (.mrimg) image file and can be restored at a later point in time. The changes that have occurred since a previous image was created can then be imaged using a differential or incremental image, reducing the amount of time that an image takes, and creating a smaller backup file. Images can be scheduled to ensure that your partitions and disks are backed up at regular intervals without any interaction.

For more information about creating a disk image, we recommend reading this knowledgebase article.

Cloning

Whereas a disk image creates a compressed file containing a copy of the data that you specified, a clone will copy the exact disk or partitions uncompressed onto the destination disk that you have specified. This is best shown with an example:

Disks before cloning:

Disks before cloning

Disks after cloning all partitions from disk 1 to disk 2:

Disks after cloning

In this example, drive E: was deleted and the partitions we specified on the source disk (Disk 1) were copied to the destination disk (Disk 2). It is important to note that cloning is a destructive process. Care should be taken when performing a clone to ensure that unintended data loss does not occur. Clones can also be scheduled, enabling you to have an up-to-date clone of your partitions and disk.

For further information about cloning a disk, we recommend reading this knowledgebase article.

Which should I use and when should I use them?

There are many reasons to perform a clone or image, we will focus on two of the main reasons: disaster recovery and upgrading to new hardware.

Disk images are a reliable way to backup the data that is stored on your partitions and disks. However, performing an image of all the data on the specified partitions and disks can take quite some time depending on the amount of data that is being imaged and can rapidly fill up the storage that is being used as the destination. This is where incremental and differential images are useful. 

Differential images will only backup the changes that have occurred since the last full image, while incremental images will backup all the changes that have occurred since the last image of any type. By using these, you can create a comprehensive backup strategy to protect your data. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what combination is best for your needs; Macrium Reflect comes complete with industry-recommended backup schedules to get you started.  

These images can then be restored in the event of a disaster, to move the data to new hardware, or archived to store long-term records of inactive data that may be required in the future. 

However, when it comes to upgrading hardware, a clone can be the more suitable choice depending on the hardware that is available. Performing a clone will allow you to replicate the data from one drive to another incredibly quickly. To perform the clone, both the source and destination must be connected to the computer simultaneously. For example, if you are attempting to upgrade your hardware and copy your operating system from an NVMe drive to another NVMe drive, a clone may be the fastest way to do this. However, this would require two NVMe ports, or an NVMe to USB enclosure, to have both drives connected simultaneously. If you don’t have the ports to do this, then an image may be more appropriate. You can image the NVMe drive to an intermediary storage device, swap the NVMe drives, and then restore the image to the second NVMe drive using the Macrium rescue media. 

Clones can also be used to have a copy of your data “ready to go” without the need for a restore. This can make a clone a good choice if you have data that needs to be accessible with little downtime. For example, scheduling a clone of your operating system will ensure that you have a copy of the operating system is always available, if the operating system drive fails then the “cloned drive” can be used to boot. The amount of time these scheduled clones take will be reduced by Rapid Delta Clone. 

Rapid Delta Clone is a Macrium Reflect feature that reduces the amount of time it takes to perform subsequent clones after the initial clone. This acts as an “incremental” clone, only copying the data that has changed since the previous clone. You can read more about Rapid Delta Clones in this knowledgebase article.

Disk imaging and disk cloning are both incredibly powerful techniques that can help you replicate and recover data. Despite their similarities, both images and clones can be used for specific purposes, whether this is protecting your data or moving your data to new hardware. We recommend reading the knowledgebase articles linked above to ensure that you are performing the right operation for you.

3-2-1 Backup Strategy

When it comes to backing up data, we recommend using the 3-2-1 backup strategy:

3 copies of your data - Redundant copies of your data ensures that if one or more of the copies becomes unavailable or corrupted due to hardware failure, you will still have a copy available.

2 local copies on different storage types - This ensures that if one of the local copies of your data becomes unavailable or corrupted due to hardware failure, you will still have another local copy to easily restore.

1 backup off-site - In the event that your local copies are no longer available, you still have an off-site copy that can be used. As the old saying goes: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Off-site copies mitigate the risk of events that can affect all local copies simultaneously, like natural disasters or theft.

For more help planning your backup strategy, please see this blog post.

Using this backup strategy, you can ensure that you will always have a copy of your data to restore. As it says on the World Backup Day website:

“I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st.”

There is no time like the present to start backing up your data, so what are you waiting for?


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