Storage Snapshots & Backup: How They Work Together

In today’s data center-powered world, we’ve come a long way from simple, legacy backup for data protection. The new IT business objective is Availability. Companies need to be able to recover from the loss of data, applications, systems or location with minimal or zero downtime, and that is vastly different from backup solutions of yesterday.

With modern storage, virtualization and the cloud, backup, replication and recovery all work together. This gives IT managers new levels of flexibility. Storage snapshot adoption is growing in these environments, and they play a critical role in data protection for business both large and small. Two specific objectives can be used to better define Availability:

  • Recovery time objective (RTO) is the amount of time allowed for recovery to take place
  • Recovery point objective (RPO) is the point in time the recovery should bring the business back to

Let’s look at how backup and storage snapshot technologies come together in IT operations for a combined recovery time and point objectives (RTPO) of < 15 minutes for all applications and data. This union creates the agility and responsiveness to deliver what Veeam calls Availability for the Always-On Enterprise.

What are Backups?

Backup is a process that creates a consistent state of the application and operating system and then copies the data to a different location for safekeeping. With backup, you have an additional copy and multiple versions of a file, application, file system or other resource for use in the event of failure or loss of the original.

Veeam recommends following the 3-2-1 Rule to protect your critical data and applications. The rule states you should have at least three copies of your data, stored on two different types of media, with one copy stored outside your primary data center. When done correctly, backup operations provide long-term retention of backups for months and years with effective performance and space consumption.

What are Storage Snapshots?

Snapshots are a common way to protect data and systems. They minimize both the data traffic and the load required to create them compared to a backup. In computer systems, a storage snapshot is the state of a system at a particular point in time. Think of it as a photograph that captures a moment in time. A storage snapshot is similar: it is a point-in-time image-level view of data.

A storage snapshot does not consume any space by default when it is created. It is just a copy of the metadata that holds information about the data snapped that is used both for tracking purposes and for saving changes based on the pointer. Storage snapshots are created instantly, which means they are done within seconds. Because of that it, is very common to create lots of them to get RPOs down to minutes.

The one of the differences between a storage snapshot and a backup is that the snapshot is stored at the same location as the original data. Therefore, it depends entirely on the reliability of the source. This means that in case of a disaster or damage to the source data, the storage snapshot will be lost or inaccessible. There is no way to restore if the source gets lost. In addition, snapshots on their own do not have the means to check for corruption or restore capabilities.

Storage Snapshots and Backup: A Powerful Combination

Storage snapshots shorten backup windows considerably, and they are especially useful when you’re doing many updates because it is easy to revert the system to a snapshot.

However, storage snapshots alone are not the complete answer to bridging the Availability Gap. Even replicating storage snapshots to a secondary storage system does not avoid problems if the data is corrupted or if there is an error on the storage system. Also, there are no safeguards to protect against an administrator deleting a snapshot on the primary storage, which may trigger the deletion on the secondary storage during the next replication. Additionally, the number of storage snapshots you can create and save is limited in most scenarios.

The following table illustrates how storage snapshots and backups complement each other based on their respective strengths:

  Backup Snapshot
Better RPO
Better RTO
Consistent backups ✓*
Corruption/Error check
Instantly created
No impact on production
Highly storage efficient
Off-site copy to external media  ✓
Not data source dependent
Long term retention
Eliminates human errors  ✓

*with application integrations

The best IT approach is to use storage snapshots and backups together to lower RPO and RTO down to minutes instead of hours and days — and in some cases weeks.

Veeam and Storage Snapshots

Veeam Availability Suite leverages storage snapshot operations to multiply the value of your investment virtualization and modern storage from:

These integrations orchestrate application-consistent snapshots on a desired schedule to ensure the OS and applications are in a consistent state before the snapshot is created. These can be used for Veeam Backup from Storage Snapshots to lower the performance impact on your production environment and for restores directly from the snapshots themselves with tools like the Veeam Explorer for Storage Snapshots or Instant VM Recovery. Veeam On-Demand Sandbox for Storage Snapshots also allows you to uses snapshots to create a Virtual Lab environment.

Storage snapshots enable for implementing short-term data protection with very low RPO and impact on your production system, which greatly complements classic data protection with a solution like Veeam Backup & Replication. Remember that despite all the benefits storage snapshots bring to the table, you still need to be taking your production data out of the single fault domain that storage snapshots operate in, and writing it to an external (independent) storage system.

You can use these backups as long-term retention for disaster recovery, even if the primary data is deleted or becomes unusable. The backup can also be an efficient source for sending copies to the cloud or to a secondary data center to meet the requirements of the 3-2-1 Rule.

The 3-2-1 Rule

The Veeam 3-2-1 Rule defines, that you should have at least three copies of your data, stored on two different media types, with one copy located off site.

Combining modern storage, virtualization with backup and replication delivers Availability that is far beyond the rudimentary backup capabilities that keep IT professionals at organizations of all sizes up at night. Bringing together these technologies goes a long way towards meeting the continually changing business requirements for today’s modern data centers.

How has using snapshots and backups changed how your IT team delivers and protects the services that power your business?

Related information:

Stay up to date on the latest tips and news
By subscribing, you are agreeing to have your personal information managed in accordance with the terms of Veeam’s Privacy Policy
You're all set!
Watch your inbox for our weekly blog updates.