Data Backups vs. Replication: What Does Your Business Need?

Data Backups vs. Replication: What Does Your Business Need?

Data backups and replication aren’t one and the same. There are important differences in what they are used for and how they are configured. Only by understanding the differences can you determine whether your business needs just one solution or both of them.

Data Backups

Data backups involve copying both critical and non-critical data periodically. They are typically performed once a day, however it can be more or less often depending on a company’s requirements. Once created the backup files are stored on a device which can be located onsite, offsite (e.g., online, at a company facility in a different part of the country), or both. Storing backup files onsite only where your data resides is not ideal should the building be lost e.g. fire or flood as the original data and the backup files could be destroyed. It is relatively inexpensive to perform and store data backups and are well suited for compliance with government and industry regulations as the backup files can be kept for as long as needed. Data backups do not ensure continuity of operations if there is a disaster or system failure since it can take a while to set up a new system and restore the data from the backup files.


Replication involves copying and moving data to a secondary system usually in near real-time. Replication is typically used for critical data that must always be available. The replicated data is kept in a secondary system which is identical to the primary system. As soon as a change is made to the data on the primary system it is permanently made to the data in the secondary system. There are no recovery points which can be problematic, for example if ransomware encrypts the data on the primary system, the encrypted data will be copied and moved to the secondary one. Combining replication with continuous data protection or snapshot technology to create recovery points to roll back to. Replication solutions are designed to ensure that critical data and the applications used to work with that data are always available if there is a system failure or disaster. Configuring and maintaining a replication solution can be expensive because the secondary system needs to be identical to the primary system.

What Should You Use?

Data backups and replication address different types of risks. Backups ensure that a business can recover its data after a system failure or disaster (disaster recovery), while replication ensures that critical data and applications are available for use if the primary system goes down (high availability). Every business needs to be backing up its data regularly as well as making sure it can restore its data from those backups. A business might also need a replication solution if it has critical data and applications that always need to be available. If recovery points are created the secondary system could serve as a backup mechanism for the critical data. A data backup solution would still be needed for the business’s non-critical data. We can help you determine whether you need one or both solutions in your business.