Backup and Recovery

Data Backup Methods

Competent data backups are part of 21st century small business ownership. But should you go with a full backup, an incremental backup or a differential backup? We explain the various data backup methods and what they mean for your business.

Data backup sounds like it should be easy, right?

Data Backup Methods

You just buy a decent business backup and recovery application, install it on your system and the software takes care of the rest. Unfortunately, data backups aren't quite that simple. Although the process is largely automated, there are still several decisions that require your attention, especially if your company lacks the resources of a full IT department.

One of the first issues you'll need to address is the manner in which the application performs backups. In theory, you could opt for redundant backups of your entire system every five minutes and be assured that your data is protected. But that kind of backup schedule isn't practical or realistic. The hardware storage requirements alone would be enormous and system restorations would be unwieldy (at best).

To alleviate system storage and restoration concerns, the data software industry designs most applications to include three data backup methods: Full, incremental and differential. Each method has its pros and cons, and serves a different purpose for your small business. Here's what you need to know:

Full Backup

A full backup archives all of the files and folders on your drive or server system. When you initially implement a backup and restore solution, one of the first things you'll do is run a full backup to establish a baseline version of your data. After that, most small businesses run a full backup about once a week. The benefit of a full backup is that you'll have a complete version of your data in a single backup set. The drawback is that full backups take time and tons of storage space.

Incremental Backup

Incremental backups save data that has been created or modified since the last incremental backup. Instead of backing up the entire system, they essentially add information to incremental backups that already exist. With less backup time and storage space requirements, incremental backups are suitable to be scheduled on a daily basis. But to restore data, you'll need access to the full series of incremental backups that have occurred.

Differential Backup

Unlike incremental backups, differential backups update data that has been added since the last full backup. Combined, differential and full backups cover all of the data in the system, regardless of whether or not it has been changed. Although differential backups are the fastest method, it can be difficult to locate data for a partial restoration and restorations will take longer because you have to restore both the last full backup and the differential backup.

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