What are the Benefits of Block-Level Backups?

Posted by Ben Austin on Nov 19, 2014 6:30:00 AM


R1Soft takes a slightly different approach to server backup than most traditional backup companies. While traditional, incremental backup products allow you to backup your data at the file level, Server Backup Manager (SBM) enables you to perform backups at the block level.

So what's wrong with performing backups at the file level? First and foremost, file-level backups tend to consume huge amounts of system resources, causing the backup application itself to compete with processes critical to the services the systems are supposed to provide. Aside from performance issues, traditional backups could also result in major limitations. For instance, it's nearly impossible to perform true bare-metal restores with file level backups.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, block-level backups don't deal with all of the deficiencies that come with their file-level counterparts. Let's take a closer look at how block-level backups can solve many of the pains often associated with performing backups at the file level.

The Benefits

Fewer Performance Issues

One major advantage of bypassing the file system is that there is no penalty on backup performance for having a large number of files. The backup application never looks at files and doesn't really care how many files there are on a server.

Block-level backups start by taking a snapshot of the live running volume. The block-level data is then read from the snapshot, rather than the actual disk. This allows the backup to run in harmony with your file system, rather than taxing your servers and causing performance issues for hours on end.

More than any other benefit, this is a huge stress reliever for system administrators. 


Faster and More Efficient

The file system is responsible for keeping track of the tree or hierarchy of files. In doing so, it stores files in neat little fixed size blocks on the disk. Unfortunately, files can be located on blocks that are scattered all across the disk.

Because of this, backup applications that read data at the file level are forced to jump all around the disk and traverse the directory tree just to find all of the files eligible for backup. This tends to be a very fragmented, convuluted process that causes the disk to spend as much time, if not more, searching for the correct information instead of actually reading the data.

Block-level backups are extremely efficient when compared to file-level backups.Since they are able to read blocks in the order that they actually appear on the disk, rather than the order that they appear in files, these solutions are able to save a ton of time jumping back and forth across the disk. 

Avoiding that unnecessary search party goes a long way in shortening your backup window and making the whole backup process a that much more predictable.


More Frequent Backups

This benefit really comes as a result of the aforementioned benefits, but it's absolutely worth noting separately: block-level backups allow you to say "Hasta luego" to those aggrevating weekly backups.

Because you don't have to worry about cippling your server in the middle of workday, there's no reason not to run backups as frequently as possible. This wouldn't mean much if your backup windows were still eight hours long. However, when coupled with the more efficient, succinct backups mentioned above, you actually have the ability to run backups every 20 or 30 minutes.

That means even if setbacks do occur, you've got access to restore points that are only a few minutes old, rather than a few hours or days. 


Cross-Platform File Restores

This is the big one. 

While not every block-level backup solution could do this, but our block-level technology can read files and file attributes from raw disk blocks in a platform independent fashion. That means that R1Soft's Server Backup Manager doesn't have to rely on the operating system when it's reading the data.

Not only does this allow you to backup  both Windows and Linux servers, it also allows you to perform cross-platform file restores. Making your restores O.S.-agnostic gives you the flexbility to restore files out of block-based backup done on a Linux server to a Windows server and visa-versa. 

Other applications require that you setup your own NFS or CIFS share for the backup application to store and read backup data from. R1Soft has its own network protocol for moving the files and block data so you don't have configure a network file system. 

Ready to take advantage of R1Soft's block-level continuous data protection technology? Click the button below to try it out today!

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Topics: Backups, block-level backup

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