Which Types of Backup are Best for You?
The Different Types of Backup Can Be Confusing
Running an enterprise IT support operation without having a backup regimen is like foregoing life insurance because nothing bad has happened yet.
The foregoing analogy becomes even more apt when you consider that there is a 100 percent certainty that everyone’s life span is finite. Likewise, there is an absolute certainty that one day you will need to recover from a data loss caused by anything from and act of God or human error.
Just as there are different types of life insurance plans, there are different types of backup. Despite the differences in the latter, the payoff is the same. It all depends on the time and storage space you want to expend in achieving said payoff — restoring your system to normal.
Getting back to normal can involve any one of four following types of backup methods:
1. Full backup.
As implied by the adjective full, this involves copying everything and storing a complete replica of every file, application and setting on your system. The full backup is obviously the starting point for any of the other types of backup mentioned below. Restoring from a full backup is fast and simple, but each time you do the backup, your archive of original source data and added new or modified files grows exponentially.
2. Differential backup
As you add or modify data to your original full backup, a differential backup stores the new or modified files, while the full backup set remains intact. Each time you perform the differential backup, the new or modified files are ready to update the full backup in the event of a restore operation.
3. Incremental backup
Similar to a differential backup, the incremental backup contains just the new/modified files; however, it stores all files that have changed since the last backup, no matter what type. Its main advantage is that it takes at least once to complete. However, during a restore operation, each incremental backup has to be processed, which could lengthen the restoration process.
4. Mirror backup
A mirror backup creates an exact copy of its source data. Unlike a full backup, the files are neither compressed nor can they be protected with a password. Its main benefit is that the backup files can also be quickly accessed with search tools.
Which type of backup should you use?
The answer to that question depends on how much time you want to devote to the backup process versus the ease and convenience of restoring. Considering that your backup media – disk drives, tapes, etc. – can also fail, your risk assessment becomes even more complicated.
A better question would be this: which type of backup will get me back to normal the quickest? Then there are business continuity regulations that require you to go either offsite or to the cloud. So what you really need is a plan and the best backup software and expertise to answer both questions.