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Snapshots vs. Backups vs. Replication: What's the Difference? |

Snapshots vs. Backups vs. Replication: What’s the Difference? |

Backups, snapshots, and replication are often confused, but they are slightly different things with the same end goal of protecting your data. Backups are for redundancy, snapshots are for quick recovery, and replication is for minimizing downtime.

What is

data replication? Data replication

means copying data to another location, either a storage system within the same data center or, more commonly, to a remote data center as protection against data center failures. It is the process of storing data at more than one site or node so that all users can share the same data without inconsistencies.

The result of data replication

is a distributed database that allows users to access data relevant to their tasks without interfering with the work of other systems or equipment.

Types of data replication

There are several types

of data replication:

  • Synchronous replication replicates all I/O (input/output) as it is written to the data storage system, confirming local and remote writes before acknowledging to the host that the write is good. Asynchronous
  • replication It replicates the data at specific time intervals, such as every five minutes, and the changes are replicated to a remote site. This means that the worst thing that could happen in this example is that you lose five minutes of data.
  • Transactional replication is when users receive

  • full initial copies of the database and then receive updates as the data changes. Snapshot
  • replication is when data is

  • distributed exactly as it appears at a specific point in time, thus creating a “snapshot” of data at that point that is then sent to users
  • .

  • Merge replication is when data from two or more databases is combined into a single database. Merge replication is the most complex type of data replication because it allows both publishers and subscribers to make changes to the database independently.
  • There is also full replication, where

  • the entire database is stored at each site, and partial replication, where only fragments of a frequently used database are replicated.

When to use

merge or transactional data replication Merge

replication is typically used in server-to-client environments. Allows changes to be sent from one publisher to multiple subscribers. With transactional replication, data is copied in real time from the publisher to the receiving database. Transactional replication not only copies data changes, but replicates each change consistently and accurately. Transactional data replication is typically best for server-to-server environments.

What is a backup?

A backup,

also known as backup and recovery, is the process of creating and storing copies of data that you can use to restore your organization’s services in the event of a primary data failure due to a power outage, ransomware attack, or other type of disaster. Backups

allow you to roll back your systems to an earlier point in time before data loss or corruption occurred in order to restore services. You can store backups on the same server as the original data, but it’s usually best to store them on a different server or on a separate system, such as a secure cloud server, to create data redundancy.

Learn more about the different types of backups


What is a snapshot? The

snapshot copies the state of a system

at a point in time, preserving a virtual image of the file system

and server configuration. Unlike a backup, which makes a full copy of your data, a

snapshot only copies the settings and metadata needed to restore your data in the event of an outage. You still need to store the source files of your snapshots in a separate location before you can recover them.

Data replication vs

data backup Data replication and data backup

are related, but not interchangeable. Data backup

involves restoring data to a specific point in time by creating “save points” on your production servers. These save points can be restored later in case of file corruption, system crashes, interruptions, or any event that causes any kind of data loss. Since data backups can take several hours, companies often schedule them at night or on weekends.

Although there is always a risk of losing data between backups, they are still a good standard of data protection and are especially suitable for storing large static data sets over the long term. Data backups are a key method of data protection for industries that need to keep long-term records for the sake of compliance.

While backups focus on data protection, data replication

focuses on business continuity—keeping mission-critical, customer-facing applications running even in the face of a disaster

. When to use



Snapshot replication is generally used when data changes are infrequent. It is slightly slower than transactional data replication because it moves multiple records from one end to the other. Snapshot replication is a good way to perform the initial synchronization between the publisher and the subscriber.

When you use a snapshot to restore your system, you return to the way the snapshot was taken. Snapshots are ideal for short-term storage and are often used for development and testing purposes. When space for snapshots runs out, new snapshots will simply overwrite older ones.

Snapshots are also useful when you “quickly save” your system before installing a major update. If you don’t like the update results, you can simply go back to your last snapshot to restore your system to its previous state.


Snapshots for Ransomware Protection Pure’s SafeMode Snapshots

was designed to protect organizations from increasingly damaging and escalating ransomware attacks. SafeMode significantly reduces the risk of a ransomware attack.

A high-performance data protection solution built into FlashArray, SafeMode places volumes, snapshots, hosts, and other objects on your system in a “destroyed” area visible in the GUI, where they remain recoverable for 24 hours. After 24 hours, SafeMode eradicates these objects permanently.

SafeMode delivers


  • Complete immutability: Protect data against encryption loss due to malicious attacks or management errors, even if administrator credentials are compromised
  • .

  • Easy backup integration: FlashBlade works with existing software and tools, so you don’t need to change your software to improve backup and recovery goals
  • .

  • Fast restoration: Petabyte-scale recovery brings your business back online.

Get started with SafeMode here.

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