Regular backup to a separate location is advised for home, small office home office (SOHO), small and midsize businesses (SMBs), and enterprise business environments. Storage devices such as hard drives and NAND flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) can fail. Data can also be lost through human error, natural disaster, power outages, and other adverse or catastrophic events.
Data can generally be backed up in any operating system (OS) without the use of specialized software. A user could copy files from the hard drive to a secondary storage device such as an external disk. Data backup software can simplify the task. Paths to data can be numerous and confusing, but backup software has a built-in understanding of the folder structures. Automatic backup may occur on a schedule or upon connection to a designated backup drive. Automating the process saves administrative time and prevents the possibility that the task will be forgotten. Automatic backup software may use dates on files, file types, and specified and common default folders -- such as the user folders in Windows -- to identify data for backup. Users can also outsource backup as a service, which is typically provided as cloud backup.
Enterprise data backup software makes an administrator's job easier and saves time and resources. The backup software protects file system and application data. Capabilities in enterprise backup software often include centralized management, scheduling, reporting and monitoring. Backup products generally use deduplication and compression to reduce backup size. Many data backup software packages also use encryption to protect sensitive data. Backup software may work differently with physical and virtual servers. Some backup software works with hypervisor application programming interfaces (APIs) to initiate virtual machine (VM) snapshots and send the VM snapshots to the backup server.
Agent-based vs. agentless backup
Data backup software may be agent-based or agentless. An agent-based backup requires the installation of software, known as an agent, on each machine that needs to be protected. In agent-based backup, a service, daemon or process runs in the background to facilitate the backup.
Agentless backup eliminates the need to install and manage agent software on the machines to be protected. However, the server on which the backup software runs and the client device must support communication protocols such as FTP, CIFS/SMB, TELNET or SSH. An enterprise user typically sets up an account on the backup server and each client device in need of protection. The account contains a username, password and profile information, including the communication protocol used to facilitate the exchange of information between the client and backup server.
Potential disadvantages of agentless backup include LAN congestion from the client-device-to-backup-server communication and the lack of data encryption between the data source and backup server. The main disadvantages of agent-based backup are host resource consumption and the burden of managing hundreds to thousands of software-based agents that, in some cases, require a system reboot for upgrades, patches and hotfixes.
A backup utility is software that is built into or bundled with an OS, software application or storage system to provide targeted data protection.
There are many backup utilities available, serving different needs at a wide variety of price points. At its simplest, a backup utility might be a program within an OS designed to back up a laptop to an external drive. Enterprise backup utilities include programs designed to centrally back up applications such as databases or enterprise resource planning systems. Utilities can back up applications running on physical servers or virtual servers.
Many backup utilities offer functionality such as incremental backups, deduplication and compression to streamline the backup process and reduce the amount of data stored on secondary devices. Some backup utilities also offer security features.
See how enterprise data backup software has evolved over the years and how it benefits businesses today. To help you decide which enterprise backup software is right for your organization, you need to overcome the five challenges of buying backup software. Then, take a look at our in-depth reviews of Commvault, EMC NetWorker, HPE Data Protector, IBM Spectrum Protect, Veeam and Veritas NetBackup.