What’s the Difference Between Full, Incremental, and Differential Backups?

Whats the Difference Between Full Incremental and Differential BackupsWhen discussing backups, you may have heard the terms “full,” “incremental,” and “differential” thrown around. But what do those words mean in conjunction with backups? Here, we’re going to explain the differences between each kind of backup in an effort to make choosing a plan easier for you and your organization.

Full Backup

A full backup is the easiest to explain, as it is exactly what it sounds like. When you perform a full backup, you produce a complete copy of your whole data set. While full backups often offer the highest level of protection, they are usually only done periodically. This is because they take such a long time, as the amount of data being backed up is the greatest with this method.

Incremental Backup

As a way to remedy the amount of time taken up by full backups, incremental backups were introduced. With this approach, you only back up the data that changed since the last backup was performed. While incremental backups solve the problem full backups have, they have a problem of their own. Incremental backups can take a long time to restore. This is because, if you were to perform a restoration of specific backup, you would have to first restore each incremental backup previous to the one you intended to restore individually.

Differential Backup

Differential backups are like incremental backups in that they both back up data which has changed. However, while incremental backups solely contain the changed data from the previous backup, differential backups include the data that has changed since the most recent full backup. For this reason, differential backups take less time to restore than incremental ones. However, as you continue to run differential backups, they will hold a larger amount of data than an incremental, which can cause a strain on your storage space.

Each kind of backup comes with its pros and cons. Depending on the capabilities of your organization, time or storage may or may not be an issue, but knowing what each kind of backup entails is important.

Tess Hanna
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