In information technology, backup refers to making copies of data so that these additional copies may be used to restore the original after a data loss event. These additional copies are typically called "backups." Backups are useful primarily for two purposes. The first is to restore a state following a disaster (called disaster recovery). The second is to restore small numbers of files after they have been accidentally deleted or corrupted. Backups are typically that last line of defense against data loss, and consequently the least granular and the least convenient to use.
Since a backup system contains at least one copy of all data worth saving, the data storage requirements are considerable. Organizing this storage space and managing the backup process is a complicated undertaking. A data repository model can be used to provide structure to the storage. In the modern era of computing there are many different types of data storage devices that are useful for making backups. There are also many different ways in which these devices can be arranged to provide geographic redundancy, data security, and portability.
Before data is sent to its storage location, it is selected, extracted, and manipulated. Many different techniques have been developed to optimize the backup procedure. These include optimizations for dealing with open files and live data sources as well as compression, encryption, and de-duplication, among others. Many organizations and individuals try to have confidence that the process is working as expected and work to define measurements and validation techniques. It is also important to recognize the limitations and human factors involved in any backup scheme.
Due to a considerable overlap in technology, backups and backup systems are frequently confused with archives and fault-tolerant systems. Backups differ from archives in the sense that archives are the primary copy of data and backups are a secondary copy of data. Archives are the primary copy of the item, usually put away for future use, while backups are the secondary copy, kept on hand to replace the original item. Backup systems differ from fault-tolerant systems in the sense that backup systems assume that a fault will cause a data loss event and fault-tolerant systems assume a fault will not.