Four Backup Types Explained: From Full to Synthetic Backup

Backing up your data is a must. Everyone knows that. There are multiple backup methods  you can use, both for your initial backup and any updates to your data. To help you find the best strategy for your information, here are the four most popular types of backup.

1. Full Backup

As one of the tried and true methods of backup, a full backup means that all data you want to recover becomes backed up in the storage space. This means that you have everything you need ready in its entirety for access if you need it. You can also easily have all data in one backup set, so it’s easy to setup, differentiate versions of data from each other and reliable.

On the downside, though, since you’re backing up every

piece of available data every single time, a full backup takes much more storage space, bandwidth, and time to complete. This type is best for when you’re creating your initial backup files and when major updates occur. Many also choose to conduct full backups on a weekly basis. However, this can leave gaps for data created or changed between recovery points.

2. Differential Backup

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A differential backup is one of the solutions to the void created by spacing out full backups. Instead of backing up all data, this method instead backs up new copies of any files that have changed since the last full backup. When paired with a full backup, a differential backup will provide many more options, take up less storage space, allow for retention of several versions of the same file, and give you easy access to data, if a restore is necessary.

However, this method still suffers from slowness comparing to incremental backup. Needless to say, over the time, differential backup will become bigger than the full backup and less efficient. It also requires an initial full backup before the differential process can begin. In the event of a backup failure for the initial full set of data or even one of the differential pieces, you will have an incomplete recovery. Restoring a single file is also more difficult, because you need to locate it within the multiple backup sets.<

3. Incremental Backup

An incremental backup also operates on a much more frequent timeline than a full backup. However, incremental backups only back up any changes that have happened since the last full or incremental backup, unlike a differential backup, which regularly backs up all changes since the last full collection of data. Incremental backups allow for fast backup windows, less storage space, and retention of several versions of the same files.

Incremental backups can take much longer to recover a specific file. You are required to locate files within multiple backup sets, and all increments are necessary for full recovery, making restoration a slow process. This method also requires an initial full backup before starting incremental backup, and a failure on any backup level leads to incomplete recovery.

4. Synthetic Full Backup

Synthetic full backups operate by completing an initial full backup, as well as additional incremental backups. When it becomes time to set up another full backup, this method compares the files that have changed since the last full backup and only uploads the changes necessary. However, unlike incremental and differential methods, the updated data becomes part of the full backup without needing to re-upload the entirety of the information.

Synthetic full backup helps alleviate the cons of traditional full backup by cutting back on upload volume, upload time, and bandwidth utilization. With all data blocks stored within the cloud repository, a synthetic full backup provides easy access to the last version of your files without needing to worry about missing blocks creating an incomplete recovery.


Ready to integrate full synthetic backup into your cybersecurity strategy? Sign up for our CloudBerry Lab and Wasabi webinar on the September 25th to learn more about this new comprehensive data backup solution.

Alexander Negrash is director of marketing at CloudBerry Lab. Read more CloudBerryLab blogs here.