File Backup vs. Image Backup – Which is Best?

How do you backup your company data?

You’re probably aware that a consistent backup schedule is the best plan for your data in your disaster recovery. But you may not realize that you have options in how that backup is performed. The options of how and where to back up your data are as important as the restore process. Regardless if the backup is in pieces or as a whole, you’ll need time to grab all of those pieces or download that whole backup in order to get up and running again.

File Backup vs. Image Backup – Which is Best?

File Backup Has Its Drawbacks

One option is a file/folder-based backup.  In this type of setup, the smallest unit that you would be able to restore is a file or folder.  Typically, such a system restores a lost file or folder on an otherwise healthy system.  This is a “selective” backup, where the business chooses which files and folders should be backed up.  The total backup is much smaller in size, needs less capacity, and costs less overall. However, should a disaster occur, the restoration of data can take much, much longer than anticipated.  With a file/folder backup, you must start from scratch to restore your system to working order. This means installing the operating system, software applications, and the software used to back up the files and folders. Once these installations are complete, you can restore the files and folders themselves.  This type of restore only restores the files and folders selected for backup; any others lost in a data disaster are simply that – lost.

Some common examples of consumer-level backup programs are Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and Microsoft One Drive. They save specific files and folders but typically aren’t up to par for business use in their free version. They also don’t work well for business use because it is difficult to standardize the access control, version control, or uptime support that a business IT system requires.

Image Backup Has Many Benefits

For a more complete and recommended option, consider image-based backup. Image-based backups are full hard drive images, consisting of the block by block contents of a hard drive.  In the event of a data disaster, a business’ entire data set is preserved. This allows for a move to new hardware and a swift restore of all information.  While this approach requires a larger storage capacity and the necessary bandwidth to move these larger files to the cloud, not to mention a greater expense, it also provides the most complete backup and the fastest restore.

Image-based backups are by far the superior choice for complete and swift recovery of data, and are the backups that Lieberman Technologies recommends.

Image backups are the best for a bare metal or equipment upgrade restore. That means that if your PC or server is destroyed, you can replace it with a newer one and quickly put the backup on there. In a worst-case scenario, you can transfer the image backup from one city to another. This will allow you to get up and running much faster than selecting the files and folders you need.

Consider the Real Cost of Backing Up and Restoring Your Business Computer System

When considering what type of backup to use for your business, don’t let cost dictate your decision. Other factors, such as depth and breadth of data and maximum acceptable downtime also need to enter into the equation. If you have a small amount of data you want to preserve and don’t mind waiting a full day or more to restore your system to operating capacity, then it’s perfectly fine to consider file/folder backup. But if you feel that your computer system and its data are far too important to your company to have to wait more than a day to get back in business, then image-based backup is well worth the increased investment.

Talk to one of our business continuity experts to see which solution is right for you.