Different Ways of Backing Up Your Database Servers


This is the third video in our series about database server backups.

In previous videos, we’ve gone over the difference between hot and cold database backups, and we also discussed the difference between logical and physical database data.

As we’ve already seen, physical backups are the most ideal for data protection. And when it comes to physical database backups, there are 3 widely accepted methods.

  • Raw Backups
  • Filesystem Backups
  • Data Feed Backups

Raw Backups Or Full Exports

A Raw database backup is the fastest and simplest way to perform a full backup of the database server. It simply consists of ignoring the filesystem and copying every bit sequentially, from one end of the hard drive to the other.

Because this approach ignores the file system, there is a lot of waste. Although a 500GB hard drive might only contain 200GB of data, the backup will take up 500GB since it has no way of knowing what’s a file and what’s empty space.

This approach also means that many periodic full backups will need to be performed, requiring long periods of downtime on a regular basis. For businesses that operate 24/7, this might not be ideal.

Another significant disadvantage of the raw backup approach is that it doesn’t allow incremental backups to be performed. Some have tried to get around this problem by keeping transaction logs for disaster recovery. This adds a lot of complexity to both the backup and recovery processes, and we strongly advise against it.

Imagine that a busy database server crashes. You try to load the last full raw backup from the beginning of the month, and then you load a transaction log containing over 100,000 complex transactions. It could take several days just to process these transactions.

Another common variation on this concept is where the database software creates a full export of the database, which is then compressed and saved as a backup. This approach takes longer, but uses up much less space.

Filesystem Incremental Backups

The filesystem approach ignores the database server, and backs up all of its associated files as it would with any other type of flat file. This approach has the advantage of only locking up small portions of the database at a time, while allowing the system to remain accessible. So the database never needs to be completely taken offline.

This approach also allows the database administrator to adhere to shorter restore-point-objectives, eliminate the need for periodic full backups, and maintain streamlined point-in-time recovery capability.

However, it would be a mistake to rely on just any flat-file backup solution to protect your database. If you choose to implement a filesystem database backup, make sure that the solution you choose is designed to work with your database, or even the enterprise systems that your database supports.

For example, you can now get filesystem database backup solutions for SQL, SharePoint or Exchange. Each of these comes with a different set of features and tools that are specifically designed for those environments.

Data Feed Backup

The most practical method of backing up database servers would be through the use of a data feed or API that connects to a storage manager.

This approach can be costly since it requires that you purchase, set up and maintain your own storage manager. However you can eliminate this up-front capital investment by renting a pay-as-you-go online storage service to handle the data for you.

And just like the filesystem incremental backups, you can also find a number of data feed database backup solutions which come with tools that are designed for enterprise applications like SharePoint and Exchange.

So how do you decide which approach is right for your business?

Well think about it this way:

A sculptor might be very talented with a Dremmel Moto Tool. But when he has a cavity, he hires a dentist to drill his teeth. Likewise, your database backups are best left in the hands of a professional.

In order to back up databases properly, you need to be a both a trained Systems Administrator and Database Administrator. If your company can’t afford to hire or train people with the right qualifications, this job should definitely be outsourced to a seasoned professional.

If your company would like help backing up its in-house database systems, get in touch with Storagepipe at database backup.

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