Top 5 Challenges in Database Restoration and How to Overcome Them

SimpleBackups founder

Laurent Lemaire

Co-founder, SimpleBackups

October 18, 2023

Understanding the Importance of Database Restoration

With all the various tasks associated with data management, database restoration can seem like the least of your worries. But this isn’t the case.

In fact, database restoration should be treated as a priority. Without a solid database restoration strategy, you may not be able to bounce back from unforeseen events like hardware failures and cyberattacks.

After one of these events you may experience increased downtime, your organization’s reputation may suffer, and you may even suffer legal consequences.

For example, you may be found negligent of industry compliance standards or financially liable for a data breach.

This article will go through some of the challenges associated with database restoration and provide some recommendations for dealing with them.

Top Challenges in Database Restoration

Database restoration, while indispensable, is not without its challenges. Navigating these challenges effectively is crucial for ensuring a seamless recovery process. Let's delve into the top challenges commonly faced during database restoration and explore strategies to overcome them.

Incompatible backup filetypes

The software you use to back up your database matters. Many filetypes are incompatible with one another, and switching database restoration strategies could cause data loss if you aren’t careful.

Here are the most common filetypes:


These are compressed archive filetypes that are widely used across all fields and markets. Essentially, multiple files are combined and compressed into one archive file ending in .zip or .tar.  

These files will save you some storage space, and you’ll almost certainly be able to open these files on almost any system. But they do have some disadvantages:

  1. They aren’t database-specific. Because these files are used to compress and combine any combination of files, there are no database-specific features. If your database has complex sorting, filtering, triggering, or stored procedures, these could be lost.
  2. They can’t do incremental/differential backups. If you use a dedicated database restoration system, you have the option of doing backups that only save the changes to the database. This means vastly smaller file sizes. With ZIP/TAR, you must save every file, every time.
  3. They don’t save you much space. ZIP and TAR files are most effective when they compress text files, saving up to 50% of your storage space. Database files, on the other hand, are often already pared down to a binary system of notation. This means there is very little that can actually be compressed.  

SQL Dump Files

These files typically use the file extension .sql or .bak and they retain the database commands. This allows you to recover the structure as well as all of the data within your database.

SQL Dump files are great because they can move very easily to new systems, and they are quite easy to understand. This minimizes the amount of training needed to backup / restore your database.

Some disadvantages:

  1. They have large file sizes. These types of files can take a toll on your storage space because they do not transform the data to reduce space. This would also mean increased downtime in restoring your database.
  2. They can’t do incremental/differential backups. Like ZIP / TAR files, SQL dump files are meant to capture the entire database. This means your storage will be used inefficiently—several very similar (sometimes even identical) iterations of your database will be created.
  3. There could be compatibility issues. The commands in different versions of SQL have different dialects and syntaxes. This means there could be a compatibility issue when attempting to restore your information. Of course, this can be an easy fix—simply revert to the appropriate version—but time consuming.

VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) / VMDK (Virtual Machine Disk)

This allows you to take capture the complete disk data of a virtual machine. This ensures that your data remains completely lossless and can be restored.

This filetype offers unmatched consistency across different systems, so they are excellent for data migration. They also allow for a total system recovery—not only will the data be saved, but also all your applications, operating systems, and settings/configurations will be saved.

Some disadvantages:

  1. This method is only ideal for virtual machines. Should the need arise for database restoration on traditional computer networks, additional tools / software will be necessary.
  2. They have enormous file sizes. These files do not only contain your data, but an image of your entire computer. This means the filesizes are quite large.
  3. They are all-or-nothing. You cannot restore just a part of one of these files. For example, if you wanted to merely restore the database but leave your system settings alone, you wouldn’t be able to on this filetype.

There are countless other types of backup files, and they each carry their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Take the guesswork out of the equation by discussing your database restoration needs with a professional.

Insufficient Hardware

Another main challenge of database restoration is a lack of sufficient hardware resources. The process of database restoration requires extensive computing power.

As shown in the previous section, backups often have very large file sizes. Your system must have incredibly high memory and storage capabilities.  

Because of this, many organizations turn instead to the cloud. Cloud-based storage solutions allow organizations to store their backups with a third party for a monthly service fee.

Although this may appear to be an unnecessary expense—most organizations feel they can handle their data internally—it actually can be a cost-saver in the long term.

You may consider buying a few external hard drives with sufficient storage to be a more cost-efficient solution. It appears at first to be a single cost instead of a monthly payment.

But these hard drives have much shorter lifespans than one might guess.

A typical hard drive has a lifespan of just 3-5 years. Not only does it become an expense to replace these hard drives, but there’s also a risk of data loss. Not to mention the time spent copying data to new drives, erasing the old data and disposing of used drives.  

Consider using a SaaS (Software as a Service) back up firm to offer cloud-based solutions to your backup automation and database restoration.

Time Constraints

Managing time can be the trickiest part of database restoration. Here’s a list of recommendation to ensure you are using the most efficient techniques of database restoration:

  • Regularly test your backups and database restoration to anticipate problems. In the event of a cyberattack, hardware failure, or other unforeseen circumstance causing data loss, you will be ready.
  • Utilize incremental or differential backups instead of a full backup each time. These types of backups only save the changes you’ve made to your database. Not only will this save you hours of downtime, but also it will help you save on your storage costs.
  • Try to prioritize. If you setup your database to allow it to be split into separate parts, then you’ll be able to back up the most critical data and processes. And even better, you may be able to spread these parts across multiple machines to simultaneously back up several parts of the same database.
  • Backup Automation. Rather than manually exporting and copying files yourself, consider using a service that automatically backs up your data. You’ll never have to worry about an unforeseen event causing a major data loss, because your system automatically backs up your data.
  • Update your hardware. Having ample storage space, processing speeds, and memory are crucial to an efficient database restoration. Consider making regular upgrades to your hardware instead of waiting for a device to become outdated or to even fail.  

 Regulatory and Compliance Issues

A final main challenge worth discussing is the legal aspect of database storage. Whenever your records include data about real people, you must be careful to follow all relevant data protention laws.

For example, those in the medical industry must follow all HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines that protect the confidentiality of patient records. Educators have a similar duty to their students according to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

There are some regulations that cross multiple industries and fields, such as:

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) – This is a law passed by the European Union in 2018 that outlines what rights individuals have over their data. For example, individuals have the right to access, remove, and edit their personal data.\
    The GPDR also outlines the responsibilities of organizations. A guiding rule is that organizations should always have a specific reason for storing someone’s personal data, and that data should not be kept longer than necessary.
  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) – This is a law passed in California in 2020 that some view as the strictest privacy law in the nation.\
    Although it technically applies only to Californians, any online business operating in the United States would need to ensure their practices comply with this regulation.\
    The CCPA states that individuals can sue organizations for statutory damages in the event of a data breach caused by a lack of security or other negligence. It also goes through a detailed list of rights for individuals and duties of organizations.  


As this article shows, there are countless challenges to developing database restoration solutions for an organization of any size.

Not only can a mistake be costly and time-intensive, but it can result in legal consequences that can carry stiff financial penalties.

Prevent a headache by considering working with a company that can help you cover all of your bases.

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