If you’re like most people, you put a lot of work into your computer. You’ve spent hours installing software, organizing files, and getting the display and other settings just right. This is what makes it your machine, that’s your cat on the wallpaper. Image backup, sometimes called “bare metal” backup, or data snapshot, is a copy, or “image” that immortalizes all your hard work.
If your computer goes “poof!” your image is then restored to another machine and “poof!” you’re on your computer again (there you are Mr. Snuggles!).
Why does it matter?
Other than losing your Mr. Snuggles wallpaper settings you might be wondering if it’s really worth it. After all, if you have regular File Backup you’ll still have your library of Mr. Snuggles action shots to choose from. True, and I’m not knocking File Backup, having all your “work” backed up is very important. But think back for second about how many apps you’ve installed, how long it took to get all the settings and custom configurations the way you want them—not to mention the avalanche of Windows updates that will need to be installed on a new machine.
Another monster consideration is software licensing. Maybe you have a spreadsheet of all your license keys that will survive, but are all the licenses current? Can you go download and install every program again or will you have to upgrade or buy new ones? This can get pricey and very time consuming. If you are up to date or don’t use a ton of software, then File Backup is your jam. If you’re more like, “woah, it took me three months to configure Pro Tools bro”, then go with Image Backup.
Server managers probably already know this, but if you’ve slipped through cracks or are just getting started, image backup is your new best friend. Chances are you’ve had to maintain workarounds and specific versions of languages, web, and DB servers, custom configurations of INIs, port settings, and workarounds. You’d rather forget those hair-on-fire high pressure fixes that you found on a message board at 2am, I know. With image backup all your hard work lives on in a Dolly-like perfect clone.
How does it work?
Without getting too technical (because who am I kidding I’m just a blog writer) an Image Backup is done by software that makes a clone of your machine in a remote location, then keeps the doppelganger current as you work. Each update creates a restore point in time. Your machine can then be restored to the exact state it was at a particular date/time. After the initial bulk data upload it’s very low impact on your processes and network as only changes are saved.
The image can be saved to a variety of onsite and offsite devices. Onsite devices allow for rapid restoration, but don’t protect you from localized disasters. It’s essential to save an image offsite for true disaster recovery purposes. One super cool thing about offsite, or cloud, image backup is that an image can be restored to a virtual machine in the cloud almost instantly. So imagine your entire office is underwater, you can spin up all your machines to a house boat floating above it in just a few minutes.
Restoring a machine from an image backup takes far less time, effort, and thought than a clean install from scratch, after which you then restore your files. Even if you had every minute detail documented and were a power user, there’s still no comparison. Everything in an image restore is done in a single operation compared to the numerous installs, reboots, updates, and all the other setup associated with a clean install and restore. Even if you had to restore more than a terabyte of data, you’d simply get it started, go check your Instagram, and return to a perfectly working system, poof!