Data Backup Types Explained – Full, Differential, and Incremental

The only approach to address data loss occurrences is to have a good backup system. Most businesses now back up their data regularly. However, one-third of them have issues with backup restoration. The distinction rests in how a ‘backup plan’ is viewed.

Mostly, a backup plan begins and ends with what to backup. The rest is up to you to decide what and how you will back up.

In honor of World Backup Day, let’s shift the conversation from ‘why backup’ to ‘types of backups’. The former provides a backup plan, but the latter provides the most appropriate backup approach.

What Is Backup?

The word “backup” has come to represent data security and may be used in various ways. Backup software solutions make it easier to backup and retrieve data. Data backup is just one component of a disaster protection plan, and careful design and testing are necessary to provide the necessary degree of data and disaster recovery capabilities.

Backup software has traditionally provided a wide range of backup options. The three most often used forms of backup are full, incremental, and differential, with synthetic full backups and mirroring as additional backup formats.

Data management is critical, and creating backups of gathered data is key. Backups protect data against human mistakes, hardware malfunctions, malware attacks, power outages, and natural catastrophes. If these issues occur, backups may save you time and money. Various approaches provide ways for creating backups, as follows:

  • Manual backup
  • Backup devices
  • Backup software

The Control Panel may be accessed manually. Then select System and Maintenance, then Backup and Restore. If you’ve never used Windows Backup before or have just updated your version of Windows, choose Set up Backup and follow the wizard’s instructions.

Three Main Types of Data Backup Strategies

Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of the three primary backup methods—full, differential, and incremental—to choose the best data backup plan for your organization’s requirements.

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1. Full Data Backups

As the name suggests, a full data backup is a complete duplicate of all data, including files and folders, independent of prior backups or conditions. The full data set is backed up and saved locally, remotely, or both. Full backups are the fastest to recover since they include all files from the same backup set.

Full backups are often the best protection against significant data loss, although they are commonly performed regularly due to the time and price required. However, every successful backup strategy should begin with a thorough data backup.

A complete data backup is often the easiest to do, but it is only sometimes the simplest to manage. Here are a few downsides to consider:

  • Uses the greatest storage of any approach
  • Requires significant network bandwidth
  • Often requires more hardware if the data set is huge
  • Considerable implementation time, depending on the size of the firm

The other two backup kinds, differential and incremental, operate in tandem with complete data backups. The differential and incremental backups are comparable, with some slight but significant changes.

2. Differential Data Backup

Differential backups begin with a full backup, which stores all files. Then, differential backups are performed to incorporate any changes made to files and folders since the last complete backup. A differential backup is cumulative. As a result, a complete and differential backup contains all of your data set’s files, altered and untouched.

Companies may recover data more quickly than with a full backup because differential backups only need the first full backup and the most recent differential backup. While differential backups provide quicker restoration times than incremental backups, they need more space and utilize much more network traffic.

3. Incremental Data Backup

Similar to differential backups, incremental backups begin with a complete backup that includes all files. The successive backups only include additions and changes to the previous or most recent incremental backup. A differential backup includes all data since the last full backup, while an incremental backup includes anything that has changed since the last backup.

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Because incremental backups only record changes (increments), they use the least storage space, allowing faster backup speeds. However, their repair technique is the most time-consuming. To restore a whole system, a corporation must first restore the most recent full backup and then restore each incremental backup in sequence. Complete restoration becomes progressively easier or impossible if even one incremental backup is lost, destroyed, or stolen.

Choosing the Suitable Data Backup Strategy for Your Business

Businesses must have a backup plan as cybersecurity dangers increase in frequency and severity. Whether internal papers, images, video files, or private information, your firm needs the flexibility to swiftly and effectively recover business-critical data with little downtime.

Choosing the proper data backup method for your firm is based on various variables, including:

  • How much data do you back up?
  • How much time can your business commit to the process?
  • How fast will you need to retrieve lost data in a disaster?
  • What operating systems and software programs does your company use?

Businesses should seek help from a data protection and recovery professional throughout the decision-making process. To select the best data backup type for your company, an expert-managed IT service provider will do an IT assessment and offer detailed answers to these and other data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity issues.


Adopting a robust data backup plan is critical for preventing data loss occurrences. Understanding the differences between full, differential, and incremental backups is critical to identifying the best method for your organization’s requirements. While comprehensive backups provide reliable security, they also require significant storage and network capacity.

In contrast, differential and incremental backups provide economical storage options but differ in restoration time and complexity. To guarantee the robustness of your backup system, consider data volume, time limits, and recovery needs. Consulting with skilled IT specialists may help you make better decisions and ensure that your backup strategy corresponds with your business goals. Businesses prioritizing data protection and recovery readiness may reduce the effect of possible cybersecurity attacks while maintaining operational continuity in adversity.