Data Recovery 101: Image Backup Explained

Data loss, whether on a small scale like an employee's computer crashing or a larger-scale disaster, can bring a business’ productivity to a halt and cost both time and money. One way that companies avoid data loss is through image backup, a continuous backup method that takes a perfect carbon copy image of a drive or an entire system. In honor of World Backup Day on March 31st, Joel Berman, an Acronis fellow and longtime IT professional, explains how image backup works — and how it can help IT managers recover quickly from a system failure:  

What kinds of data will image backup restore?

Joel Berman: Simply speaking, all of it. There is tons of data on just one single user's computer, some users are aware of and some that they aren’t. On the average user’s disk drive or SSD [solid-state drive], there is a lot of information: files, pictures, emails — all data that he or she is personally involved with. And then there is the whole gamut of other files that come from applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, plus the files associated just with the device’s operating system, such as Apple or Microsoft, and the information cached in their Internet browser. The list goes on. Image backup has the ability to store and restore all of this information immediately onto another computer. The user could recover all of the files, and use a system completely identical to the one he or she had prior to the crash.

What differentiates image backup from other kinds of backup solutions?

The other type of backup is a file backup. If you do a file backup, you lose all of the metadata that enables an instant recovery. A user or IT manager would need to reinstall the entire operating system and files, apply all the updates that were on the original system, plus reconfigure the device's network settings — all of which take a lot of time. 

How can IT managers benefit from using image backup compared with other methods? 

Image backup is well-suited for enterprise environments because it can save IT departments that need to backup multiple employee computers and company systems a lot of time and energy. Also, with image backup, IT managers don’t have to worry about whether they’ve backed up the right amount of data because it grabs everything. With other backup solutions, people often try to speed up the process by eliminating history files or temporary files, but these files can be important in the case of a system crash. Image backup is able to quickly restore all of them. 

[Image via Flickr user Part-time Lion under Creative Commons]