With the increasing amount of data that's building up in our databases, it's never been more imperative to have the appropriate backup and recovery software in place. Any amount of downtime—whether it's because of user error or a power outage—can be costly and even devastating to the ongoing success of a company. Although choosing database backup and recovery software is crucial to your company and your clients, be patient and think about your requirements.

Related: Step-by-Step Approach to Differential Backup and Recovery

Many database backup and recovery software solutions may look similar, but often there are differences that might sway you one way or another. Let's look at some of the buying factors that you need to consider before making a decision.

Database Platforms

Before making a buying decision, look closely at the various database platforms the solution provides support for. IT shops are becoming more and more heterogeneous so it's important to ask questions such as: "What databases do we support? Do we plan to add additional database platforms in the future?" Some solutions in this buyer's guide support only SQL Server, whereas others support SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, and/or IBM DB2. So, if you think you might use an Oracle database down the road, think about purchasing a solution that supports Oracle and your current database platform.

Additional Application Support

If you're using SharePoint or Microsoft Exchange Server, or plan to do so in the future, see whether any of the backup solutions support these applications. Sure, this buyer's guide is about database backup software, but this additional application support may be helpful with regard to the systems that you need to support.

Full, Incremental, or Differential

When you wade through the backup options that the software features, you're going to see the terms full backup, differential backup, and incremental backup. It's important to know the differences in how they work. Full backup is what it sounds like. It copies all your data each time you perform a backup. Although it sounds good, it can severely affect backup times and requires a lot of storage.

The last two backup options—incremental and differential—often are confused, and it's important to know there is a difference. Differential backups will back up all your data that has changed since the last full backup, which can greatly reduce restore time. Incremental backup will back up the most recent backup, regardless of whether that last backup was full, incremental, or differential. The main benefit is that it reduces the backup window. However, incremental backup will increase restore times because you have to restore the latest full backup, plus all incremental backups since.

Recovery Time

Although recovery time isn't something I could address in the buyer's guide table, it's one of the most important factors that you need to consider. Lets face it, at some time or another your system will go down and you'll need to recover data in a timely matter to ensure that business operations continue as usual. The difference between a one-minute and three-minute recovery could severely impact your organization. So call the vendor, talk to an engineer, and get an estimate of the recovery time for your situation. The best option is to acquire a demo of the product, and go through a test scenario.

While on the topic, you should pay close attention to the solutions that provide "point-in-time" or "point-of-failure" recovery. These simple types of recovery help bring your database to the latest state that wasn't corrupted.

Online Backup

There's no doubt that backup windows are shrinking, which is why the ability to perform online backups has never been more important. Products that support online backup let you continue using a database 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other Items Worth Mentioning

Some would say that bare-metal restore is a must-have part of any backup and restore solution. Bare-metal restore functionality lets you take backup data and restore it to a server that has no OS or software installed.

If you're looking for other ways to distinguish the products in the attached table, look at whether or not the product features continuous data protection (CDP). This technology automatically saves a copy of changed data, which lets you restore to any point in time.

See Associated Buyers Guide