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Data Backup Glossary

When choosing data backup hardware and software, you’ll encounter a few common terms. Understanding these terms will help you choose a data backup solution that is best for you. Knowing these terms will also help you grasp the concepts that will allow you to get the most out of your data backup system.
Full backup – This is a backup that creates a copy of all of the files on a system or volume at the time of the backup. A full backup can be restored to recreate a system after a crash.
Incremental backup ¬– An incremental backup is a backup that builds upon a full backup. An incremental backup consists of only the data that has changed since the last full or incremental backup.
Differential backup – A differential backup is similar to an incremental backup, but it is not cumulative. A differential backup consists of the data that has changed since the last full backup.
Backup image – Backup images are byte-for-byte copies of a partition, volume or drive. They can be restored in any other location, such as a partition on a hard disk drive, a CD or DVD, or a removable flash drive.
Mass system deployment – Using a backup image, you can clone a system, including its settings, files and applications, to multiple machines. This is an efficient way to deploy dozens or hundreds of machines without having to reconfigure each one.
Virtual disk – A virtual disk is a disk image that has been mounted without being cloned or copied to a physical drive or partition. The host system will treat the virtual disk as a read-only drive, allowing you to access certain files from the image without copying over the entire contents.
Bootable disk ¬– These are disks that can be used to boot a system. These may also be called a LiveCD, LiveUSB, portable application or emergency edition. Bootable media allows you to get into an operating system or application after a system failure.
Compression – Disk images and backup images can be compressed to save disk space. Compression saves disk space, but it will increase the time it takes to create the image and access the image.
Encryption ¬– Encryption allows you to password protect a volume. This prevents it from being mounted without entering the correct password.
MBR – MBR stands for master boot record. This is the special boot sector on a hard drive that uses a Windows-based operating system. Non-MBR drives, such as those formatted by Apple Mac OS or Linux systems, can also be backed up, but may require software that is designed to be compatible with non-MBR partition layouts.
Backup sets – A backup set is a group of backup files that a program treats as a single unit. The advantage of a backup set is that you can set a certain number of conditions—such as max size, max number of backup sets, max backup age, etc.—so that you have a predictable amount of data backed up and disk storage space used.
The above terms are a good starting point for working with backups. Once you understand these basic terms, you can begin asking the right questions to tailor your ideal backup system.


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