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There are three ways of backing up an Oracle database.
1. User-managed backups: These are the traditional "hots" and "colds". In a "hot" backup, you place the tablespaces into backup mode and then copy the data files using cp on *nix operating systems or cntl-c/cntl-v on windows systems. Once the data files are copied, you take the tablespaces out of backup mode. In a "cold" backup, you take the database down completely and then copy the files. When the datafiles are copied, you can bring the database back online.
2. RMAN backups: This is Oracle's recommended backup strategy. The benefit of this type of backup is that RMAN is kernelized or part of the database itself. This means that you no longer need to worry about placing tablespaces into backup mode or bringing down the database. Backing up a database is as easy as the following:
RMAN target /
3. The final way you can back up a database is using some type of storage backup such as tape backups of the entire filesystem or mirroring the array offsite.