Our computers have evolved to the point where most of us have a good portion of our lives stored on them.  Our documents, photos, videos, financial information and much more reside on our computers.  Keeping all of this important data backed up is critical if we don’t want to suffer a catastrophic loss at some point.

There are a number of backup types available which include file backups, image backups, differential backups, and incremental backups.  The goal of this site is to educate you as to the pros and cons of each of the different backup types.  We also want to make you familiar with the various media that can be used to store your precious data.  These include removable media, internal drives, external drives, network backups, and cloud backup services.  We’ll try to point you to some of the best software around so you can back up your valuable data with confidence.

Backup Types

Image Backups

An “image backup” is simply an image or copy of everything on your system, including your Operating System. This differs radically from just a file backup because the image that’s created contains everything that’s part of your system

Disk images are called by a variety of names including a bare metal backup, a recovery backup, image level backup, and the like.  The key thing to know about doing an image backup is that it will include everything that’s on the hard drive.  Your files, folders, pictures, videos, programs, and so on.  In addition, it will also include the entire operating system that ‘s on the drive.  In short, an image backup will backup everything on your hard drive.

This type of backup is relatively easy to set up because in most cases you’re selecting the drive and your software takes it from there.  Technically there are two types of image backup software, those that are sector based and those that are file based.  Both types backup everything so that restoring to a blank drive will enable you to boot back to the way your system was when it was backed up.

File Backups

File backups basically refers to the process of backing up the important files on your computer.  This is in contrast with image backups where the entire system is backed up.  Doing a file backup can be as simple as copying an important file from your computer to your flash drive so that you have a “backup” copy.

File backups were much more common in the early days of computers. Backup software could be used to flag exactly what files you wanted to back up.  This type of software is the most basic type of backup software.

Some file backup programs are completely free and they can be used to backup your important files

Commercial backup software offers features like advanced scheduling, disk and partition cloning, incremental backup, and more. These programs help keep your data safe and secure. Some of the best programs of this type are reviewed on this site.

Differential Backups

A differential backup backs up only the files that changed since the last full backup. This type of backup is appealing to some because it can be much faster and it takes up less space because you’re only backing up the data that’s changed since the last backup. All of the top backup software supports differential backups.

Incremental Backups

Incremental backups are backups that back up only the things that have changed since the last backup.   The difference between a differential backup and incremental backup is simply the number of dependencies.  The differential is always based off a full backup and has one dependency (the full backup).  Incremental backups are a chain of backups starting with the full backup then each additional incremental  backup. All of the top backup software supports Incremental Backups.

Storage Devices

There are a number of options available when it comes to storage media for storing your backups.  In some cases your choice of storage media will depend on the size and frequency of your backups.

External and internal hard drives can be used easily.  These may consist of traditional hard drives or the newer SSD and NVMe drives.

Another option is Flash memory devices like USB thumb drives which can be referred to as UFD  or USB Flash Drives.  These have gotten progressively larger and some will be available in 1 terabyte sizes later this year.

Optical storage media like CDs, DVDs, or BDs can be a popular choice for housing your backups.  These come in various sizes and  rewriteable media types can be reused if you wish.

Many businesses use NAS or Network Attached Storage, but it’s also becoming an option in homes that have multiple computers.   You can also use tape drives for your backup and there’s also cloud storage which has become very popular.

This gives you a wide range of backup storage options to choose from!

Removable Media

Removable media refers to any backup media that can be removed from the computer or the backup device. This would include things like CDs and DVDs, tape cartridges, and removable disks.

Internal Drives

Internal drives are any drives that physically reside within your computer. These can be floppy drives, tape drives, hard drives, SSD drives, and also optical drives. They come in a variety of sizes and configurations.

External Drives

External drives are any drives that reside outside of your computer. These would include hard drives, SSD drives, optical drives, and tape drives.

Network Storage

Network Storage is used when you back up your data to drives that are located  on other devices or computers across a network.  Network Attached Storage or NAS are specialized small computers with drives for backing up all the data on your network.  Traditional network file servers are another example.  This backup method is particularly popular in businesses that do their work from a network.  All of the top backup software supports network storage.

Cloud Backup Services

Cloud backup refers to backing up your data to any number of available cloud services.  Using cloud services is a form of network backup except the computer is located across the internet and maintained by the provider of the service. These include sites like Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and many more. This type of backup has become popular because the storage is easily accessible and the storage amount can be increased easily. In addition, when you use cloud backup your backed up data is stored off site.

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