Snapshot vs. Backup: What is the Difference?

Simon Bennett
Simon Bennett ยท Nov 09, 2022

Data is a valuable resource created, collected, stored, and transferred for any business. By protecting it from external and internal theft and unauthorized access, a firm can avoid financial loss, reputational harm, a reduction in customer trust, and brand erosion.

Data is lost when information systems are damaged, lost, or irreparably wiped out. Ignorance in processing, transmission or storage causes it to happen.

Data loss may appear inevitable, but you may avoid it with a complete backup and recovery plan.

Snapshots and backups comprise an effective backup strategy. In the event of a data loss, it guarantees that data is backed up and accessible for restoration.

Although both backups and snapshots appear to "copy" data, there are different techniques for protecting digital assets. In addition, treating snapshots as backups is an expensive, time-consuming operation that could harm your data.

In this article, we will discuss what snapshot and backup are, how they are used, and the difference between snapshot and backup.

What is a snapshot backup?

A server snapshot is a picture of your system's data or volume at a specific time or a set of reference markers. A precise duplicate of the given data volume exists in the initial snapshot. Later snapshots contain data blocks that have been added or changed, accelerating versioning.

Although they are often made for data preservation, you can also use snapshot backups for data mining and software testing. You can utilize them for disaster recovery as well.

What are snapshots used for?

Version control uses a system snapshot to prevent any potential harm to the system before upgrades, modifications to existing software, component removal, etc. Because they make it possible to restore recently modified data, snapshots are thus often adopted for development and testing environments.

Snapshot server is also used in modifying the system's settings, data corruption, hardware failure, and power outage recovery and rolling back to an earlier version of a file using file versioning.

Types of Snapshots

There are many widely used methods for creating and integrating snapshots, even though how they are executed varies from vendor to vendor.


When an I/O request tries to modify a storage block under copy-on-write, the block is copied first and kept by the snapshot to which it relates. This maintains consistency for that storage snapshot, which includes pointers to blocks that have not changed and duplicates of those that have.


When new blocks are generated with redirect-on-write, only one write is necessary for the snapshot. The original and the snapshot are referred to whenever the present state of the data is mentioned. Those differences must be reconciled back to the parent when snapshots are deleted.

Continuous data protection (CDP)

Since CDP snapshots are taken in real time, they are updated each time an alteration is made to the original copy. In addition to automatically preserving every version of the user's information locally or at the target repository, it provides continuous data modification tracking and recording. However, frequent snapshot updates and creation degrade network speed and bandwidth.


The multiple types of cloning are related to snapshots but have entirely distinct mechanisms. A clone is an exact duplicate of a storage unit at its most basic level. Not just original and updated area photos but the entire thing.

Pros of Snapshots

  • Compared to backups, faster rollback to an earlier point in time

  • Rapidly and easily created without affecting the production server

  • Reduces the total cost of ownership by removing the requirement for Windows native backup solutions (TCO)

Cons of Snapshots

  • Being open to problems that affect the production server

  • Utilizes a sizable portion of the primary storage capacity

  • Lacks selectivity; you must retrieve files in their completeness because you cannot restore individual files from snapshots.

What is Backup?

A backup, or a data backup, is a copy of system data made and kept elsewhere so that you may use it to bring the saved data back while preventing data loss. However, if you have purposefully erased older data from your system, you can also use the backup to retrieve copies of those files.

Data backup is the process of making copies of data so that you may recover the originals in the case of a data loss incident brought on by a natural disaster, human error, or cyber threats like ransomware.

What is backup used for?

Because they are not intended to supersede one another, backups are ideal for long-term data storage. You should ideally use backups to restore older backup files, reduce the risk of data corruption, allow point-in-time recovery, and do other purposes. Business continuity is ensured through wise backup investment.

Types of Backup

Different backup strategies exist. Select the backup type that meets your requirements for data security. Then, make a wise decision and choose the proper backup strategy.

Full Backup

A full backup entails a complete copy of an organization's complex disc data, files, folders, and SaaS data. The data is backed up into one version and sent to a storage location.

Differential Backup

Differential backup is put between incremental backup and full backup. It entails backing up discs, files, and folders created or modified since the previous full backup (compared to the changes since the last incremental backup).

Incremental Backup

Backing up all the files, folders, SaaS data, and hard discs that have changed since the last backup operation is known as incremental backup. It can be the most recent incremental backup or the most recent full backup in the chain.

Pros of Backup

  • Cost-effective because little investment is necessary for personnel, infrastructure, or setup

  • By keeping data off-site, it offers a high level of security

  • It makes it simple to scale up or down depending on your required storage amount.

Cons of Backup

  • Big data backup can take longer because it depends heavily on network connectivity.

  • Access management for disorganized backup files raises security concerns and causes data corruption.

  • Poor host performance and app availability caused by bandwidth and data latency problems

Snapshot vs. Backup

Here are some critical differences between snapshots and backups.

Only the same location where the original data is kept can save snapshots. In contrast, you can keep a backup on the same drive, the same server, or even a different location.

A snapshot is a picture of your server right now. In comparison, there may be variations depending on when the backup began and was completed.

Snapshots include several systems' files, programs, and configuration information, whereas backup includes only the file system.

Copies of data are made in a snapshot in a brief period. However, copies of backups require a lot of time.

In database snapshot vs. backup, a snapshot is a free feature used to manually make duplicate images of the servers in the case of a SQL server. They are simple to produce at any moment. In contrast, Backups for SQL servers are a premium service. This service allows users to back up their most recent data each night automatically.

A snapshot is not a backup by itself. However, it might be implemented as a crucial step in the backup procedure. A snapshot is part of the data moving process to a backup file. When the backup job is finished, it is removed. In comparison, A backup is only a backup once the data is spread across numerous places. It should be simple and quick to recover backups. Backups must be able to be verified.

Versioning is done with snapshots, but full data backups are kept off-site with backups.

Saving on-site and off-site snapshot computer storage is necessary, while backups do not require on-site or off-site storage.


We hope that we have discussed in detail snapshots and backups, their pros and cons, and their differences. Many people have discovered that using snapshots to recover lost data or virtual infrastructure is unreliable. Organizations should always have backups in place to have an independent method for business continuity, even though they have exceptional use cases and can be employed safely within the limits of their designed meaning and purpose.

Why is a Snapshot not a backup?

Backup and data protection solutions serve one goal, while storage-based snapshot methods serve another. Snapshots shouldn't be regarded as reliable "backups" of the data because they are prone to collection failures because they are located on the same collection as the production database. The main difference between snapshots and backup is that the latter is isolated from the mainframe.

Do Snapshots take up space?

Typically, snapshot files are tiny; these are the data blocks preserved by snapshots and generally take up volume space. Therefore, the space consumption of a snapshot is not a fixed number but varies depending on the data of your shared folder.

Is Snapshot safe?

You should refrain from using a snapshot for reliable data protection. However, it is a convenient feature for testing and a more significant part of a backup operation. Still, if anyone processes it, it will be easier for them.

Is Backing up safe?

One great way to ensure you are cautious about your data's protection today is to back up your data. However, it is safe unless you include backup in your security strategy, consider different backup locations, and always ensure that your network is secure.

What is a database snapshot?

A read-only, fixed view of a SQL Server database is called a database snapshot (the source database).

A snapshot is most similar to which type of backup scheme?

A snapshot is most similar to the incremental backup scheme.

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