Century IT blog

Full Data Backup / Differential Backup / Incremental Backups

July 10th, 2012

Different Types of Backup.


Backing up the data within your business is a business critical event

More than anything, it helps to make sure that you don’t lose any important files, whether they are quotes and order forms or customer or employee details. The loss of either would be a disaster to the business. Whichever way you look at it, investing in a backup system of some sort, is a something that needs to be done.


There are numerous different backup mediums that can be used, ranging from flash storage to tapes to hard disk drives and choosing the right one for your business or home use is purely based on your personal requirements and preferences.

CD’s and DVD’s if you have very little data to be backed up and a lot of time in which to do so, or flash storage if you have a bit more money to spare but need the fastest backup possible.


More importantly, there are different ways of backing up your data. Three of the most common of these, are Full Data Backup, Incremental Data Backup and Differential Data Backup.


Here’s a little further explanation on what each one does, and the good sides and the bad sides to each of them.




Full Data Backup

This form of Data Backup is fairly self-explanatory with its name and does what it says on the tin. It performs a full data backup of every folder and file that is specified to be backed up within the backup software whether the files it backs up are newly created or several years old since they were last opened, it backs it up either way.


The advantages to this sort of data backup are fairly clear in the respect that it is the most thorough form of data backup possible. But the other up-side to this form of backup is that should you ever need to restore the system from one of the created backups, then the process is the quickest and simplest of all the methods.


This method of course does have its downsides however, the most obvious being that it takes far longer to run a full data backup than any other, as absolutely everything is backed up, not just select files. The other disadvantage to this method of backup is the fact that you will need far more backup storage space available because of the amount of files that are going to be backed up.


Because of how long this way of backing up usually takes, it is often either run on a server in the very late hours of the night when the server is not being used or accessed, or over a weekend on a weekly basis.




Incremental Data Backup

This type of data backup works by only ever backing up files that have been modified, changed or created since the last data backup was made.


In turn, this results in a very fast data backup service as opposed to the full data backup option as well as needing a lot less in the way of storage requirements because of the considerably lower amount of files being backed up. On the other hand, there is the downside that if you ever need to restore data at any point, the restore process will take considerably longer than any other backup method.



Differential Data Backup

The final type of backup is Differential Data Backup. Essentially this is just a combination of the two above mentioned methods.


For example, a full data backup could be run late on a Sunday night and the rest of the week to follow would just use differential data backup methods. Making sure that only files that had been modified or created since the last full data backup, were backed up that time round.


Like the other methods, there are still slight disadvantages to this method, but all round it proves itself to be a good way to back up on a regular basis without using an excessive amount of storage space. Restoring data from the backup is faster than form incremental backup, but slower than a full data backup and likewise the backing up process is slower than the incremental data backup alone but still slower than a full data backup.





  • Full Data Backups take the longest to complete but the backup will contain a complete set of your data


  • Incremental Data Backups are the quickest types of backup to complete, but it will only contain a subset of your data, data that has changed since the last Data Backup


  • Differential Data Backups only backup data that has changed since the last Full Data Backup and are likely to be quicker than a Full Data Backup



Choosing the right style of backup for either personal or business use is a choice left up to you, but the above information hopefully leaves you a little more clued up as to what to expect from each type of backup before making a decision on one.


90% of businesses that found themselves without data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy inside 2 years*



We would advise that you seek expert advice before embarking on a suitable backup regime for your company. A mistake made in the planning of data backups can have a catastrophic consequences if the need to restore data arises and you do not have a complete set of your data.


 * Source – London Chamber of Trade & Commerce



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