As you come up with a new backup strategy for your business or even your home, you’ll come across a variety of backup terms and options that may send the average computer user running for the hills. We all wish backup was as easy as pushing the “Easy Button,” but the reality is backup and the terminology that accompanies it, can be like a foreign language for some users. You’re told often that you can’t ignore the importance of backing up your data, but the options can be so confusing and overwhelming that you’re not sure what you need for your particular situation.
We’ve simplified several important concepts to ensure that you have a better understanding of key Windows backup terms.
Full Data Backup
A full data backup is the method used to restore all folders and files selected for a particular backup period. Most consumers use a full backup to initially store data followed by several differential or incremental backups to save data that has been changed since the initial run.
- Advantages: Full backups are restored quickly and easily and make it easy to maintain different versions.
- Disadvantages: Backups take longer periods of time and take up more storage space because every piece of data is backed up every single time. You may store the same files over and over again, wasting valuable storage space.
Example: A full backup is set to run every weeknight after hours. An initial backup is done Monday evening that contains the entire list of folders and files. Tuesday’s backup copies the entire list of folders and files all over again, and so on until the end of the week. Any files you designate to be backed up will be stored again at each backup time.
Incremental Data Backup
An incremental data backup is the storage of every change that has been made since the last time you stored all of your data. Again, a full backup is typically done for the initial storage, and incremental backups may be done at certain time intervals.
- Advantages: Backups are faster and use storage more efficiently.
- Disadvantages: Restoring data takes longer and is a more complicated process.
Example: When you set up your incremental backup to run each weeknight, you might start with your first run on Monday. Your Monday backup will contain all your data, but Tuesday’s backup will be an incremental one and only save files that you have changed since Monday’s backup or any new files that were added to the already backed up folders. The cycle continues on in a similar fashion through the rest of the week.
Differential Data Backup
A differential data backup with your Windows 7 backup software falls right into the middle of a full backup and an incremental backup. This type will store any changes that were made since the last FULL backup. The storage space used also falls between the two types of backup.
- Advantages: Faster than a full back up, faster restore and storage is used more efficiently.
- Disadvantages: Slower than an incremental backup with restores that may be more complicated than a full backup.
Example: A differential data backup will also run from Monday to Friday with your initial full backup done on Monday evening. Tuesday’s backup will include changed files and new files added since Monday. Wednesday’s run will include any change and added files since Monday, rather than just since the last backup, and so on through the rest of the week.