Types of Backups

Types of Backups
Article by Sumana GangulySumana Ganguly
Last Updated: April 16, 2023

Did you know that 96% of businesses don't have a backup for their workstations?

Data loss is a real thing. It can happen to your business at any time, and it can occur without warning. You never know when your hard drive or server will fail.

That's why you should back up critical data to have a fail-safe. Assessing which type of backup fits specific business needs is brilliant, especially since data lives in more places than ever before.

With that in mind, we will look at the main types of backups and some of their pros and cons to help you choose which one to conduct when saving and restoring your files.

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3 Types of Backups

Backups are used to ensure data security. Just one data breach can cost your business fortunes. According to a study, 29% of businesses encountering a breach lose revenue.

It's not unusual for businesses to use multiple types of backups—full, incremental, and differential. These are offered by top IT service providers.

Let's take a closer look at each backup type:

Full Backup

A full backup is a process that involves the creation of a complete copy of an organization's files, folders, SaaS data, and hard drives.

All the data is backed up into a single version and moved to a storage device.

Pros and Cons of Full Backup

A full backup is simply a copy of your entire system or file structure from one point in time. While this may seem like it would be sufficient for most businesses, this is not always the case.

Let's check its pros and cons.


  • It's the perfect protection against data loss when you factor in recovery speed and simplicity.
  • If you only need to restore the last few months' worth of data (such as if you had some significant customer changes), this could be a good option.
  • A full backup is the quickest to restore data because all the files you need are contained in the same backup set.
  • Because these backups are performed in bulk, they can take much less time than incremental or differential backups.


  • If you're running a full backup, you're backing up all of your files at once every time. This process can be pretty time-consuming.
  • It may also strain your network if the backup is occurring on the web.
  • If you need to restore all of your files from an older date range (say, when your company first started), this may not work out well for you.
  • The other common issue with running full backups is that they can overload storage space.

When Do You Need to Use Full Backup

Research shows that 75% of small businesses, like password managers, don't have a recovery plan.

If you have a small business that may not have much data to back up, full backups are probably the best option as it's easy to maintain and restore them.

It is also best used when you have an exact copy of all the data you want to save and its metadata.

However, you should consider encrypting your backups if you plan to use full backups. If unauthorized users gain access to your backup, they have access to everything.

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Incremental Backup

The biggest challenge with backing up your data is the time it takes to do so.

The time it takes to back up your files can be so excruciatingly long that you might wonder if it would be better to just forget about keeping track of your data and trust that it will always be there for you.

But what if you could reduce this time in half? What if you could get an incremental backup done in just a few minutes? What if there was a way to reduce the amount of storage space required by half?

Incremental backups are precisely what they sound like: they involve backing up all the files that have changed since the last backup activity.

Pros and Cons of Incremental Backup

When you hear the term "full backup," you may think of a time-consuming, expensive, and complex process. An incremental backup can be a great alternative.

But like other backup types, it also has its drawbacks. Here are its pros and cons:


  • This type of backup is perfect for organizations without unlimited resources or the need to keep their data for extended periods (such as financial institutions).
  • It's also a good option for organizations that want to recover quickly after an incident occurs where hardware or software failure occurs but don't need to restore all of their data at once.
  • Incremental backups are meant to save space and time. They involve only backing up the most recent changes in a file.


  • Incremental backups would take more time for the recovery process if many files were not backed up during the last cumulative activity.
  • Successful recovery is only possible if all the backup files are damage-proof. An error in one file will prevent the entire restore process from being completed successfully enough to get you back on track with your work deadlines.
  • Searching through multiple backup sets to find a specific file can be tedious.

When Do You Need to Use Incremental Backup

Incremental backups should only be used when planning for long-term storage needs (such as archiving), not for day-to-day backup needs (which would require full backups).

With an incremental backup method, you only need to store one copy of each file in your database (or other storage location) instead of two copies: one before and one after the last update.

This makes your storage space much more efficient (and thus cheaper). Plus, restoration is lightning fast since each incremental copy is just a part of the whole file rather than its full version.

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Differential Backup

If you're looking for a way to manage your data backups, then differential backups may be suitable.

A differential backup is a compromise between regular full backups and regular incremental backups.

It involves backing up data created or changed since the last full backup. To put it simply, a full backup is done initially, and subsequent backups are run to include all the changes made to the files and folders.

A differential backup has the same basic structure as an incremental backup—in other words, it involves making copies only of new files or files that underwent some kind of change.

Pros and Cons of Differential Backup

Differential backups are slower than incremental backups but faster than full backups.

As with any data backup method, the pros and cons of differential vs. incremental will vary based on the type of data you're backing up and how often you need to restore it.


  • It reduces bandwidth consumption by reducing the number of files backed up at any given time.
  • It helps lessen problems caused by human error or computer crashes occurring during regular backups.
  • Differential backups also provide more flexibility than other types of backups because they allow you to choose how many files are included in each backup set and how complex or simple it should be


  • With this backup model, all the files created since the original full backup will always be copied again
  • Differential backups take up more space than incremental backups

When Do You Need to Use Differential Backup

Differential backups are helpful when you want to ensure that no matter what happens while your computer is offline or otherwise unavailable for processing (such as while on vacation), your data will always be safe from corruption or hardware failure.

Types of Backups: Final Thoughts

If you're running a business, you know that downtime is costly. And when your business is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the cost of downtime is even higher. This is why it's essential to understand how backups work and how they can help your enterprise cybersecurity.

Differential backups are your first line of defense against data loss. They can be used with other backups even further to reduce the risk of data being unrecoverable.

With these three data backup methods, you'll have plenty of options for a seamless business continuity plan. If you have a small team, you can get help from IT and managed service providers.

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