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Data Protection vs. Backup: What’s the Difference?

According to online marketing service SEM Rush, the keyword “backup” is searched more than 49,000 times a day, worldwide. Even though backup products have been around for decades, it’s still a hot topic based on searches for information about server backup, workstation backup, mobile device, and cloud backup.

The term “data protection” hasn’t yet gained that degree of traction among the general public, and most searches for that phrase are really searches for information about the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While our product is called SolarWinds® Backup, when you read descriptions of what it does and how it helps managed services providers (MSPs) solve problems you’ll see data protection mentioned again and again.

Why is that? Are they two terms for the same thing?

Not exactly.

The main differences between these two terms have to do with the mindset and approach they represent.

  • Backup is traditionally an operational function
    Making sure a server or device is regularly backed up is a basic part of good operational management. Sometimes budget responsibility for backup lies with the server team, and sometimes with the storage team, since backups traditionally consumed a lot of storage.
  • Data protection is a security function
    This mindset considers data a valuable corporate asset to be protected—from viruses, ransomware, user error, fire, and flood. An important part of that protection is having the ability to recover when all else fails. When the virus gets through, or the hardware fails, you need to be able to recover.

Backup is typically approached on a device-by-device basis. If I have 10 servers, I need to back them up, usually in the same way. That’s how backup products are typically priced and sold. The concept of data protection recognizes that data is found everywhere, and the value and recoverability requirements of the data should drive how it is protected more than what type of device it is sitting on. Backup products are evolving accordingly.

Data protection conversations often have to do with network endpoints, with varying requirements for recovery based on the type and value of data found there. These conversations tend to be broader in scope, as valuable business data lives in many more places than servers and workstations. A holistic data protection view includes SaaS applications, mobile devices, and more.

If you’re still caught in a backup mindset, give data protection some thought. And keep your eye on SolarWinds Backup, as it continues to expand and protect more data types, in more places, for more MSPs and their customers.


Carrie Reber is senior product marketing manager for SolarWinds MSP.

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