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Full, Incremental or Differential – What Data Backup Type to Choose?

Every day, 5.194 million data records are either lost or stolen in an event of an IT disaster (manmade or natural). Examining the problem on a granular level: 0.2 million data records are compromised every hour, 3,607 data records per minute and 60 data records every second.

As such, protecting data against corruption, loss or breach, has become one of the top priorities for the business community.

Experts cite data backup as the most effective strategy for businesses to accomplish the goal of protecting data. In theory, the practice sounds simple. However, the execution is far more complex, for it involves the consideration of many factors, among which selecting the right data backup type is of utmost importance.

In this article, we will review each data backup type, elaborating on the strengths and weaknesses of the options being subject to discussion.

Data Backup Types Reviewed

The most common backup types included in a data backup software suite are:

1. Full Backups

Full backup is the most basic and robust type of data backup operation. As the name implies, it creates a copy of your entire data set. This means that every time you run a full backup operation, all the previous data and any data added after the last created backup would be copied on a storage medium.

Let’s say you originally have a data set that quantifies to 20 TB of disk space. You run a full backup, creating a duplicated data set that also calculates to a total of 20 TB of disk space.

After a month, you again decide to run a full backup. In the month gone by, you created an additional 5 TB of data set. Your second full backup would now calculate to a total of 25 TB of disk space, and together, you have 45 TB disk-sized backup to store and manage.


  • Provides the best protection against data breach, corruption or loss.
  • Convenient recovery of data, as you only have to access the most recent backup.


  • Exhaustive hardware requirements.
  • Exhaustive backup process.

2. Incremental Backups

Incremental backup is a type of data backup operation, in which only the updated records of a data set are copied onto a backup storage media. Here, the “updated record” applies to all those data records that have been generated since the last backup operation.

In the example discussed above, only the 5TB of data set would be copied on the backup storage media, if you were to run an incremental backup after running a full backup operation.


  • It is quick to perform.
  • It requires low storage space.


  • It provides the least security out of all data backup options available in the market.
  • Full data recovery can be an exhaustive process.

3. Differential Backups

It is similar to incremental backup when run first time, generating a backed-up data set that only contains the updated records as per the last full backup operation. However, in the subsequent runs, all incremental data generated since the previous full backup operation, will be copied.

Referring to our previous example once again, let’s say every month, you generate 5 TB of additional data. This means that if you run a differential backup, you will originally need a storage media having a capacity of 5 TB; followed by 10 TB of disk space for the next month; then 15 TB of disk space for the following month and so on and so forth.


  • Provides increased level of data protection in comparison to incremental backups.
  • Quicker to perform than full backups.


  • Hardware requirements are more extensive than incremental backups.
  • Do not provide a similar level of data protection as a full backup.

In general, businesses opt for either a daily full backup strategy, a weekly full backup plus daily incremental backup strategy or a weekly full backup plus daily differential backup strategy.

Which backup type do you think is the best for your business?

Supporting Every Type of Data Backup Strategy

No matter which data backup type suits your business, CloudBacko Corporation can help. The company offers data backup software that can be used in cloud to cloud backup applications, Windows system backups, VMware backups and other data backup applications for different types of supporting frameworks.

All software applications are highly encrypted, making sure that data backup operations can be performed in a secured environment.