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In french the English word backup is often used but for various actions.

In English does "to perform a backup" mean the action to restore a system from a previous state. Or can it be also used for the action to create the system image which will be used for restoration?

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A backup in general is something that you have and you can use in case your normal operation or plan fails. You do not do or perform such a thing.

In an IT environment, when you create your system image:

you create a backup
you make a backup
you take a backup
you perform a backup

The "take" on I hear especially in database-environments; the "perform" seems to confuse very few people.

When you use the backup to restore the crashed system:

you restore from a backup

Outside IT environments, you can also have backups. A common occurrence is a backup plan, which you can make and then have. If the original plan fails, you can put your backup plan into action, or execute your backup plan. Note that here you do something with the plan, not with the backup!

A backup can also be a person who can take care of your tasks and / or responsibilities when you are not able to do so. I would not advise to execute that person.

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I disagree with "I think that performing a backup is very ambiguous." I've often heard this phrase used (in a tech context) and there was never any ambiguity about what it meant. – starsplusplus Feb 26 '14 at 15:22
I agree that very ambiguous was a bit strong. Some ambiguity does exist, as proven by the OP's answer. And especially in a tech environment I prefer these thing to be as clear as possible (I work in a very international environment, and I don't want to risk a sysadmin misunderstanding me when I request a backup to be "done".) But yes, it is used, and "performing" usually means "creating", that's true. – oerkelens Feb 26 '14 at 15:52
Since backup operations consist of two parts, not everybody is aware of which part is performed and which part is not. That is how it can mean something else. For the rest I cannot look in the heads of people that have misinterpreted this (among others, the OP). I already agreed that it is usually clear :) – oerkelens Feb 26 '14 at 16:00
Hmm. Honestly I wouldn't consider "restoring from backup" to be part of "backing up" unless it was explicitly stated. Wikipedia and the Oxford Dictionary (2/2.1) would seem to agree: backup, or the process of backing up, refers to the copying and archiving of computer data so it may be used to restore the original after a data loss. I take your point about non-native speakers possibly being confused - but you could say that about almost any word or phrase... – starsplusplus Feb 26 '14 at 16:09
@oerkelens, I agree with starsplusplus: "Backup" is NOT a 2-part operation, "backup" is a single operation and "restore" is a separate operation. – Hellion Feb 26 '14 at 17:51

In computer jargon, to "perform a backup" is to create a copy of your data that will be kept in case the original data is lost or corrupted.

If you copy this data back to the live system, this is called "restoring a backup" or "restoring from a backup".

So no, "performing a backup" does not mean restoring the data from the backup. It is the opposite direction.

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I especially like the version with from: Restore from a backup. – J.R. Feb 26 '14 at 16:51

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