File Backup vs Image Backup Which to Use and When

file backup vs image backup

Most SMB clients view “backup” simply as a routine process that involves creating a copy of their data. However, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) recognize that there are a multitude of tools and options available to achieve this objective. This article aims to elucidate the differences between two primary types of backup: file backup vs image backup, as well as provide examples of situations where each can be most effective.

What is file and folder backup?

The purpose of file and folder backup tools is to safeguard essential business data against loss, corruption, or accidental deletion. These software tools are specifically designed to back up files created by the user, as opposed to system-generated files, executables, or other similar files. Consequently, they are highly specialized and can backup and restore files quickly, and with minimal use of storage space.

What is image backup?

An image backup captures the entire system, including operating system, system settings, application data, patches, and files at a specific moment in time. This enables Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to restore the system and its data in case of a necessary rebuild or restore onto another machine, whether physical or virtual, in the event of a disaster.

The main advantage of image backup is that it eliminates the guesswork involved in deciding which files and folders should be backed up/recovered and which should not. Furthermore, it removes the complications that may arise from the need to re-install and reconfigure systems in case of significant malware infections or other disasters. On the other hand, the corresponding disadvantage of image backup and recovery is that it can be more time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive due to its comprehensive nature.

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When to Choose for File and Folder Back up

Most small business end-users do not require intricately configured endpoints or extensive device customization to carry out their operational duties. Typically, workstations and laptops used by personnel have minimal customizations, with a few lines of business or productivity applications, a few minor security configuration modifications, and potentially some productivity-boosting setting changes. These are all easily reproducible via an RMM solution in the event of an emergency. In most cases, the data files on their devices are their most valuable assets. Executives, for instance, may insist on having critical files safely stored on their laptops and readily accessible whenever required. Hence, file backup is an obvious choice for multiple reasons.

4 Reasons Why File Backup is a Clear Choice for Small Businesses

  1. Restore speed: File and folder backup solutions are optimized for quick restoration of individual files or full folders remotely, making it a great choice for accidental file deletion or corruption. End-users can even restore files on their own.
  • Restore flexibility: This can make restoration challenging, especially when restoring to dissimilar hardware. In such cases, it may be quicker and more efficient to use a fresh install of Windows and restore files instead of downloading the entire image.
  • Mobility: Image backup solutions can be expensive, especially for distributed or remote workforces. Due to the small storage requirements of file and folder backup, it enables a more remote and mobile workforce.
  • Storage cost: Image backups can be very large and expensive, often reaching up to 20 GB for a device with just system files. This cost can spiral quickly when paying for storage. File and folder backup for machines that do not require full image backup is a cost-effective way to provide data protection.

When is image backup more ideal?

Image backup is designed for disaster recovery of complex and business-critical systems like servers. It enables full bare-metal recovery to minimize downtime in case of a disaster. While some image backup products also offer file and folder-level restoration, it is not their primary function. Image backup solutions allow MSPs to swiftly virtualize a server during an outage until a new physical server can be set up, reducing the impact on their client’s business.

Image backup is recommended for scenarios where the time taken to acquire and configure a new system is longer than that for an image restore. It is also useful when the increased storage costs are justifiable considering the potential losses caused by downtime.

Overall, image backup is ideal for disaster recovery of critical systems and quick virtualization during outages but may not be necessary for regular file and folder-level restoration.

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While many MSPs tend to rely on image backup as their primary data protection solution, having a reliable file and folder backup product is just as important. Though image backup is essential for disaster recovery of critical systems, a file and folder backup solution allows MSPs to offer more effective backup across more endpoints at higher margins.

Therefore, instead of solely relying on image backup, it’s essential for MSPs to include a reliable file and folder backup solution in their stack. Doing so will enable MSPs to offer a more comprehensive data protection service that caters to various scenarios and ensures higher profits.

Ultimately, MSPs should aim to strike a balance between image backup and file and folder backup, depending on their clients’ specific needs and the level of data protection required. Are you an MSP or an IT Professional? Gorelo got everything you need: remote monitoring (RMM), PSA with helpdesk and ticketing, remote access, network discovery, patch management, and much more! Start Your 14 Days Free Trial Now.

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