How to choose the right sort of backup

Posted on February 14, 2018

How To Choose The Right Sort Of Backup

Backing up data is one of the most important ways of protecting your company, its operations and functions. There are many different ways of doing this and various types of backup. We examine the three main varieties—full, incremental and differential backups—as well as the advantages, disadvantages and applications of each.

Why backup?

Everyone knows how important a backup is. Backing up is a critical part of an organisation’s disaster recovery or protection plan and its purpose is to preserve the organisations ability to operate with minimal interruption should key information be lost or compromised..  This process should not be confused with archiving data, which is not a secondary copy, but instead classified as historically low value primary data, which is moved to a different site, and which should also be backed up.   

The purpose of a backup is to create an up-to-date copy of all relevant data, so that if a file or application is compromised, it can be easily restored.  The objective is, of course, to restore quickly, with minimal downtime.   When data is lost, corrupted, deleted or some other disaster strikes, backups protect your data and save your company valuable time and money..

As part of your Business Continuity Plan or disaster management, backups should be tested regularly to check their integrity and effectiveness—long before they are ever needed.  It is only through regular testing that you’ll know your backup plan is sound. As they say, prevention is always better than the cure.

There are many different types of backup and which one, or combination of strategies your organisation will employ, is dependent on your data, accessibility and storage requirements.

The location your organisation chooses to backup to is also dependent on these factors, but the cost-effectiveness and lower risk of Cloud Backup is rapidly seeing it become the choice for smarter businesses.

Full, incremental and differential backups are the most common types of backup used by organisations.  However, there are other types including synthetic full backup, mirroring, reverse incremental and continuous data protection (CDP) also.

So let’s examine the three most common backup types a little closer.

Full backup

As its name implies, a full backup makes a complete copy of all data, on a different type of media we’ve mentioned above.  The most basic type of backup and its biggest advantage is in creating a full backup set which can be made available in one location with a single type of media.  It means that when needed, restoration can happen quickly and easily,  without a lengthy impact on your productivity.

There is no analysis of the data—everything, including procedural, archived, historical and incorrect data is copied.  Due to its size, creating a full backup can take a long time and requires a lot of storage space.  

Therefore, full backups are generally run periodically, particularly in companies with a great deal of variable information.  They are often used in conjunction with other types of backups to create an up-to-date working copy.

Incremental backup

Like its name suggests, incremental backups only copy data which has been changed since a previous backup has been completed.  Timestamps are compared on files and only those with modified timestamps since the last backup of any kind is copied.  

Because less data is backed up each time, incremental backups are much faster with less storage space required than full backups.  However, if disaster strikes, downtimes and recovery times may be substantially greater if restoring from incremental backups, as multiple backup locations or different media sets are often required. Newer backup technologies, such as Vocus Backup as a Service takes some of the risk out of running incremental backup regimes by being able to conduct virtual audits of backup policies and presenting reports on the integrity of the data.

Differential backup

Although similar to an incremental backup, a differential backup copies data which has not been changed since the previous full backup.

Consequently, differential backups are not as big as full backups but do require more space and time than incremental backups.

How are different backups are used?

Typically, organisations approach their data protection management by using a combination of these systems.   A full backup might be run weekly, with daily differential or incremental backups run also.  

The strategy chosen to best protect your organisation is going to depend on many different elements, the main ones of which are storage space and time.  Whichever combination is employed for optimal protection, testing of the backup integrity and restoration times should always be a major part of your organisation’s backup plan.

To discuss your organisation’s backup or data requirements, call Vocus on 1800 031 009 or read more about the benefits of moving backup to the Cloud.