Backups: Differential vs Incremental Which One to Choose?
Last Updated on April 3, 2017 by Josh Giesing
One of the most important aspects of securing the safety of data on your computer is the scheduling of frequent data backups.When thinking of backups a common question we get is backups differential vs incremental. Most users do not know the differences between the two and we plan to explain this to you.
Many things can happen to the data on your computer from a wide variety of potential problems. Without backups, you could easily lose your valuable information. A backup will prevent the complete loss of important data stored on your computer.
One reason people tend not to perform consistent backups of their data is because it can take a great deal of time to completely copy the entire content of information on the hard drive. One solution in response to this problem is the use of differential and incremental backups to supplement a full backup. These two procedures aim to reduce the amount of time required to perform a backup. This is made possible by only creating a backup of new and changed information instead of the entire content.
The following are the differences between the backups differential vs incremental. Read about the pros and cons to determine what backup is right for you.
This type of backup method creates a copy of all the items that have been changed since the last full backup was performed. This allows a user who deals with large amounts of changing data to perform regular backups. These smaller backups take less storage space and time to complete. Using a differential backup makes it possible to perform a full backup less often.
For example, let’s say that a full backup was performed on a Friday. Each day of the week afterward a differential backup can be performed which saves all the files that have been altered since the full backup on Friday. Then a new full backup can be initiated on the next Friday, and the differential backup process can be rescheduled with backups being created for file changes during the new week.
The benefits of using this type of backup are best exploited when this type of process is used for a short period in-between full backup procedures. As time passes, the size of the differential backup increases, and it takes a longer amount of time to complete each procedure. If a month passes between full backups and a differential backup is performed each day in the meantime, it can take quite a lot of time to complete a backup which includes so many days that must be recopied.
Another solution to backup storage and time constraints is offered in the application of an incremental backup schedule. This type of backup creates copies of the files that have changed only since the previous incremental backup was performed. This allows a user with large amounts of daily data change to greatly reduce the amount of time required to complete each backup procedure.
If performed every day, the backup will only save changes to files that occurred in the previous day. Incremental backups can often be performed so quickly that they can be used many times each day to constantly update and save changing information.
The cons of using this backup method are that sometimes software will require each piece of the incremental backups to be present to complete data restoration. A restore isn’t possible if even one of the pieces is missing. Each incremental backup has to be saved in the same folder to make it possible to restore the data. If a full backup or incremental backup gets deleted, there is no way to restore the set, since all of the backups are dependent on each other.
It may take more time to perform a restore process as well. When running a system restore, the backup software will need to rebuild the data from each separate incremental backup along with the last full backup piece.
While an incremental backup carries with it a slightly increased risk of data loss if one or more of the previous backup pieces are missing, it is a preferred option for companies dealing with massive amounts of ever-changing data.
Which Backup Method is Right for You?
Whether to use incremental backups or differential backups can be confusing. If you have a relatively sizable amount of data change over the course of a week or month the best backup option for you is likely to be the differential backup procedure. You will gain the benefit of having shorter storage and time requirements imposed on each backup, while still being able to make use of the faster and more efficient data restore.
If you have constant massive changes to data, such as through the daily operations of a business, the incremental backup option is more ideal. Using this type of backup, you will be able to create constant daily or real-time data backups with very little data storage and time requirements involved. While this comes at the cost of having potentially slower data restore, the extra time saved with each backup more than makes up for this issue.
Backups Differential vs Incremental
With the various backup options available designed to help reduce the need for constant scheduled full backups, there is little reason not to secure your valuable data through regular backups. Whether you prefer the speed and extra safety involved with differential backups, or the lightning-fast and real-time abilities of incremental backups, the need to perform these backups are ever present.
It’s important to remember that despite which option you choose, whether you’re deciding between the backups differential vs incremental, you will still be required to occasionally perform a full backup. Doing so will help reduce the size of each of your differential backups. If you’ve chosen to use incremental backups, the occasional full backup will reduce the amount of incremental backup files that must be present in order to perform a restore. If you’re diligent and make sure your data is safe and secure through differential or incremental backups, you won’t have to encounter a time where all your hard work is lost.
Have questions about your backup feel free to contact us. Our techs are happy to help! We just ask that you make sure you are backing up!
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Patrick is the service shop manager at Computer PRO Unltd. Patrick has been working in IT for 17 years with experience in Azure, Servers, and Exchange.