Can Snapshots Be Backups?

My colleague Eric Slack, recently wrote a column suggesting that how we protect data needs to change in order to meet the ever shrinking Screenshot 2013-12-02 16.22.25backup and recovery windows. That column has also generated quite a few comments objecting to his suggestion that snapshots are an ideal solution to this problem. The objections can be summarized with the statement “snapshots are not backups”.  As we will explain in this week’s webinar “Accelerating Protection & Recovery of Business Critical Apps” we believe that snapshots when modernized can indeed fulfill this need and change (not replace) the role of traditional backup in the data center.

The Problem with Legacy Snapshot Technology

Snapshots in the traditional sense are relatively temporal in nature. Most data centers don’t let them age for more that a day or so. This is because legacy snapshots tend to have several problems as the time elapsed between the snapshot and current production data widens.

First of all, performance declines, both of the snapshot version and more importantly of the production data. Second, disk capacity consumption grows, as the combined capacity of multiple snapshots of a very active data store can end up being many times larger than the original. And finally, many snapshot technologies and storage systems in general are lacking when it comes to off-site data replication.

Modernizing Snapshots for Backup

Snapshots need to be modernized, using a more efficient technology to track and capture changes to the original volume. The data in the snapshot also should leverage data efficiency processes like compression to minimize the amount of capacity being stored. The snapshot technology should also effectively use flash to store snapshot data blocks and the snapshot meta data, both of which can improve performance. These capabilities should allow snapshot performance to equal standard production performance. Finally, for snapshots to take the lead role in data protection and recovery they should be integrated with operating system tools so that clean data snapshot copies can be made. They should also leverage intelligent, compressed replication to protect from an array or site failure.

We will get into this subject in more detail in our webinar as well as interview two customers that are actually using the technology in this way. As an added bonus anyone that pre-registers will be emailed a copy of our exclusive report “Can Array-based Snapshots save Backup?


Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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