Snapshot feature for more data security

Tim Filzinger

When handling enterprise applications and sensitive business data, there may be regular occasions when you want to restore to a previous state. With a snapshot feature, quick snapshots are possible for this purpose, which can be reproduced if required. This leads to significantly increased data security and prevents fatal errors.

The most Important in a Nutshell

  • A snapshot feature enables virtual images of computer systems and disks by using certain metadata.
  • In contrast to the backup, no direct copy is available, but a faster recovery is possible in the short term.
  • Typical techniques are copy-on-write with a dedicated drive or redirect-on-write within the used drive.
  • Common applications include virtual machine configuration and data loss prevention.

What is a snapshot?

Snapshot definition

In IT, a snapshot is a virtual snapshot of a data carrier or system. Depending on the program, the snapshot can be taken automatically or manually by pressing a button or clicking a button. Workflow. Typically, various reference markers and metadata are used to restore the exact state later. Many storage applications use an integrated snapshot feature to create a backup at regular intervals or before critical data movements. The time is the most important criterion and can usually also be determined manually by the user.

However, a prerequisite is data standstill, which can be achieved, for example, by using a backup mode. Otherwise, the snapshot is not clearly defined; in the worst case, a running transfer could not be taken into account, so that data is lost. The technique is often mistakenly equated with a backup.

Differences from a backup

A backup is an independent copy of selected data and is stored on an independent storage medium. It is therefore permanently stored in the same form on a physical data medium or in the cloud before. The necessary copying process can take hours, since the data contained is replicated one-to-one. A snapshot feature, on the other hand, enables - as the name suggests - a split-second snapshot that only references the original data via certain markers.

Thus, the purpose of the two operations also differs. The backup is a basic backup that is only needed in the most extreme case of extensive loss or damage. Snapshots, on the other hand, can be incorporated into everyday life as often as required, for example to test new workflows and, if necessary, restore a state that existed a few minutes ago. A snapshot can enable the recording required for this in various ways.

backup data
Simple storage media for smaller backups

Two types of snapshots

The Copy-on-Write or Low-Capacity Snapshot is used whenever changes are made or new data is recorded. A separate drive is a prerequisite for this, since the data history is stored via this drive. This in turn requires a copy of the metadata, which is updated according to the write process in the original data. For a complete recovery - for example in the event of a transfer error or software failure - the entire sum of these recordings is required.

For the Redirect-on-Write Snapshot on the other hand, the same drive can be used. A certain memory area is used for this, which is filled gradually and independently of the original files during the writing process. These contain time data that the snapshot feature uses for the recordings. In each case, only a single write process takes place, which results in improved performance compared to Copy-on-Write Snapshot. Another advantage is the suitability for a longer retention of data if there are no changes in the meantime.

General use cases and advantages

In principle, an integrated snapshot feature is a useful and valuable add-on. Disadvantages only arise from incorrect use, for example to substitute a physical backup with it. To prevent this from happening, here are some useful use cases:

Virtual machine

Snapshots are particularly well suited for the configuration of virtual machines. These are digital models of a physical computer that are operated within a computing environment. In many cases, they offer easier maintenance as well as higher availability and can be used well for experiments or risky operations such as accessing virus-infected data.

Snapshots play a crucial role in this process, because the virtual snapshots, it is possible to determine the virtual This makes it easy to reset a disk-based environment in the event of a problem. For example, the uncomplicated patch of a server or a test of certain installations is possible without having to reckon with irreparable consequences.

Data loss

Even in traditional infrastructures and software environments, there may be some incidents that require an integrated snapshot feature. As a rule, this concerns an imminent loss of data, which, among other things, has to be taken into account with regard to compliance and GDPR can have serious consequences for companies. Typical causes are:

  • human error - e.g. unintentional deletion
  • interrupted server availability - e.g. during maintenance
  • Cyberattacks - e.g. through phishing
  • Software malfunctions - e.g. due to faulty updates
  • Viruses - e.g. Trojans
  • Physical damage to data media - e.g. due to water damage


Snapshots are an important tool for the data processing and storage that can prevent imminent loss. This is ensured by a metadata-based snapshot of system and memory states. This is not to be confused with a backup, which on the other hand provides a complete copy of the data. Proven snapshot techniques are copy-on-write within a drive and redirect-on-write using another drive.

In addition to increased data security, a snapshot feature can increase the degree of flexibility, especially in automated document management. Important capabilities include the creation and sharing of data sets, the creation of backup copies, and DSGVO-compliant AI training using annotations that have already been made. This ultimately also significantly reduces the time invested.

Want to learn more about the benefits of snapshots for businesses? Feel free to take Contact to us.

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