ShadowProtect and ShadowSnap: What's the difference?

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1. Scope

This article explains the difference between ShadowProtect and ShadowSnap.

2. ShadowProtect

  • Developed by StorageCraft, ShadowProtect is an image-based backup software that captures volume-level backups.
  • ShadowProtect has software that is specific to different platforms (Server, SBS, Desktop) and many different versions: Datto devices use the MSP version of the software.
  • ShadowProtect can be used with any storage medium that has enough space for the backup chains. Any Datto using ShadowProtect can use this software to send backups to a NAS share.
  • ShadowProtect works by creating a destination, selecting volumes for backup, choosing what kind of backup job to implement, and then starting the job.
  • The full images are kept as .spf files, the incrementals as .spi files. The entire chain must be held for the purposes of restoration, and the chain may become more difficult to recover from if it becomes excessively long.
  • StorageCraft Image Manager can be used for consolidation, validation and verification of the backup images that are created. It is a separate software platform that should be installed to control backup chain growth.
  • ShadowProtect images can be converted to a variety of formats for use within virtual environments. Incrementals must be compiled at restore time.
  • ShadowProtect licenses may be purchased a la carte from Datto's Partners Portal under the "Service" tab.

3. ShadowSnap

  • Datto Intelligent Business Continuity devices (SIRIS, ALTO, ALTO XL) use ShadowSnap to create 'inverse' backup chains. This piece of software is invisible from the target machine. All the user will see within the Start Menu is ShadowProtect ("Add/Remove Programs" will show ShadowSnap).
  • ShadowSnap works inside the ShadowProtect environment to use the backup engine that is created with ShadowProtect, but with modifications to allow for easier access to the backup chains for manipulation and restoration purposes.
  • The inverse backup chain works by using ZFS file system snapshots to record incremental updates.
  • Retention policies are in place to prevent the dataset from becoming too large for the appliance. The retention policy is automatically verified on each backup (unless the backup chain has dependent files that are necessary for the off-site chain to continue).
  • The dataset then has a hardware independent restore (HIR) performed on each backup, which installs the boot loader and necessary registry information to allow the backup to boot in a virtual environment and checks the volumes for filesystem integrity.
  • ShadowSnap then proceeds to verify the backup is bootable by cloning the backup, mounting it within VirtualBox, and starting the virtual machine.
  • Once the Windows GUI is reached and system codes specific to a successful Windows OS boot are detected, a screenshot is taken and recorded, the machine is dismounted, and the virtual machine is cleaned up.
  • Datto provides unlimited ShadowSnap licenses, so there is no need to purchase any licenses separately.

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