A company’s data is its most important asset. It’s essential to protect it, through data storage and backup, as well as an up-to-date disaster recovery and business continuity plan. That seems simple enough, but there are some nuances to understand in order to achieving comprehensive and complete data security. Ensuring your business has the right backup level is one of those key concepts.
One obvious consequence of having the wrong backup level is not having sufficient space to store essential data. Another lesser-known concern is wasted storage space and bandwidth, which can lead to unnecessary expenditures.
So what’s the difference between full, incremental and differential backup? What is a forever-incremental backup? We’ll discuss each below.
A full backup is exactly what it sounds like: a backup of all data in the entire system. One caveat is that some files are specifically excluded from backup by the set configuration. Usually, these are directories that won’t hold any value during a reboot, or contain temporary files.
An incremental backup includes all data that has been changed since the last backup of any kind (in contrast to differential backups, discussed below). Previously, they backed all files that has been changed. However, that often caused a great deal of unnecessary backup effort (like when one small piece of a file has changed) and significant inefficiency. Now, many incremental backups only back up the blocks that have been changed.
In contrast to an incremental backup, a differential backup includes all data that has been changed since the last full backup. Differential backups were popular in the days of tape-based backups, and have largely fallen out of use in recent years.
Now that most backups are done on disk, full and differential backups are less relevant. Instead of restoring data, a forever-incremental backup system keeps a record of the location of the files in storage, and transfers the files back to the client. This is significantly more efficient.
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