Backups part 3: backup media
Backup blog series table of contents:
After reading the previous parts, you should have gained a basic idea about backups. Being familiar with the reasoning behind making backups, the definition of backups and basic concepts would be a good base to get started with this part. In this part, we are going to discuss the different types of storage that can be used for backup.
Storage nowadays can be inexpensive in most situations. A lot of possibilities to store backups are available, online and on premise. For any type of person, professional or just a consumer, there will be a multitude of ways to store backups, fitting the use case of the person. Below follows a list of common ways to store backups and a short explanation.
Magnetic tape: this is probably the oldest method on the list. It has been used for bulk data storage, backup, archiving and interchange. It uses sequential access: data is being read, written and saved in an ordered sequence. This could create the perception that using magnetic tape is kind of slow, which makes it unsuitable for quick data access. On the other hand, the advantages are that it’s reliable, secure and energy efficient. Usually, magnetic tapes are used for offline backup.
Optical drives: today, most computers don’t even have an optical drive. But if they do, they can use optical disks, such as CD’s, DVD’s or Blu Ray disks. If your system uses an optical drive, optical disks are portable solution when you need a quick backup on the go. Backups on optical disks always remain offline.
Flash drives: most people would know this as the “USB-stick” or the thumb drive. At the inception of thumb drives, the capacity was fairly low, which made these devices not very useful, except for very small files. Nowadays, USB-sticks exist with a capacity of 2 TB, while fitting in your pocket. That also makes them useful for a backup on the go. Another type of a flash drive is the SSD, which exist in an internal form (SATA SSD, NVME) and in an external form. Both could also be useful for backups, depending on the situation.
Flash cards: mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones, often are geared with a card reader. This card reader is able to read and write on flash cards, such as SD cards. Usually, they are not used for backups, nevertheless it’s still an easy way to do a backup on the go if a card reader is present.
Some bigger storage solutions are also helpful in the setup of backups, at consumer level or in a production environment. Usually they come with an enormous amount of storage, that could be found on site or online. With some modifications, these storage solutions can also be used to run backups on, although for some of them, it’s not their primary goal.
Cloud: the cloud is something that undeniably is partial to the world of technology. The applications of clouds are almost infinite, but the most known application is probably storage, for production environments and for everyday use. There are however a lot more advanced applications that involve the cloud, but we are not going to dive deeper into that. Cloud storage could be used for structured and unstructured backups. Clouds can be involved with automated solutions, or it could be used as a place where users end up storing copies of their files. There are vendors that are concentrating in selling dedicated cloud backup solutions, and usually they differ from vendors that are focus on just cloud storage.
NAS: Network Attached Storage. It’s a device that contains disks (hard disks or SSD’s), and usually it’s meant to store files. Depending on what custom made operating system it uses, it could have more functionality, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. As the name tells, it’s set up in a network, making it suitable for automated backups, with proprietary software present on the device or in combination with external software. In a production environment, it could be an inexpensive alternative for a file server. File servers are the bigger brother of NAS-devices and serve the sole purpose of storage of files. They also could be used for backups.
A combination of well-chosen media and the methods discussed in part 2, as well some things to consider leads us to the last part of this series: best practices.