Q

Zero backup 'less flexible' than traditional backup

What environments can benefit from a 'zero backup' approach?

What is "zero backup" and what types of environments or workloads are suited to this type of data protection?

Zero backups are based on the idea that if a workload is protected with a sufficient level of redundancy then traditional backups become unnecessary. The classic example that is often used is Exchange Server, but Exchange is far from being the only workload that can be protected using zero backups.

In the case of Exchange Server, it is possible to construct a database availability group consisting of up to 16 mailbox servers, and each can contain database copies. If a failure were to occur on a mailbox server that is hosting the active copy of a database then one of the redundant database copies is activated and the database remains online in spite of the failure.

The disadvantage to using database availability groups as a sole protective mechanism is that database availability groups are based on failover clustering, and are therefore more of a resiliency solution than a recovery solution. Their job is to keep a database running, not to provide a way to revert the database to a previous state. Databases can be rolled back by using a mechanism known as a lagged database copy, but it is typically much easier to restore a database from a backup than to activate a lagged copy in a way that will revert the database back to the desired point in time.

Incidentally, database availability groups can be used to replicate databases to a secondary datacenter, but doing so requires the database availability group members to adhere to a number of different requirements pertaining to things such as WAN link latency and domain membership.

As a general rule, backups tend to offer much more flexibility than zero backups do. Zero backups are best suited to enterprise environments where there is little chance that the data will ever need to be reverted to a previous state.

Next Steps

Using zero backup for data protection

Best practices for backups

This was first published in June 2014

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