What is file-level and image-level backup? What are the pros and cons and when should you use each case?
Backup is the be-all and end-all of professional computer engineers. Whether they support a company or their personal work, data security is their primary concern.
But also in a personal, home environment, backup copies are a necessary function. No one wants to lose personal data, such as photos, videos, etc., that they can't find anywhere, even for a fee.
With backups, you essentially keep a copy of the most critical files of your device, either personal or of your operating system, in a different place, and thus you have the possibility to restore them at a later stage, if something's wrong with your primary device.
After you have understood the obligation and absolute need to have backup copies you will be asked to choose the method of obtaining them. And roughly we can say that there are two main methods:
- File-level backups
- Image level backup
Let's get to know them, see the pros and cons and choose the one that suits your needs.
File-level backup can back up single or multiple files or even folders.
In this case, you get a backup of individual files, folders, and app data, and it's the most common type of backup since it's quick and easy to perform.
Usually this method is aimed at creating copies of individual files that concern personal data or the results of a program. It is not addressed to the program itself.
That is, you can easily copy a personal photo, as well as the result of its processing with a photo editing program. You will hardly keep a copy of the photo editor itself and the image viewer.
On the other hand, you may not care to keep them because you can easily find them again online. But when we talk about the configuration of a program or even a server, then even though these configuration files belong to the program and not to the user data, recreating them will be very laborious.
File-level backup is essential when you want to regularly back up files and folders. And when we say regularly, you could easily be taking backups every hour.
And even writing only the points that have changed from the previous copy, without having to bother the hard disk. So, in case of a system crash, you'll have the last hour's data to recover from, not the previous day's.
You can back up data at a lower level. Hence, the backup size is relatively low.
With a file-level backup, you won't be able to create a bootable recovery media, which is only possible with an image-level backup, which we'll talk about below.
In the event of a general system crash or malware attack, the recovery time will be particularly long, as you will be required to reinstall everything from the operating system to all programs and then go through your data backups. In a company or a bank this procedure is considered to be permissively unacceptable. Uptime is precious.
Image level backups
In addition to file-level backup, there is also block-level backup, better known as image backup.
It is an advanced backup method that creates a copy of your entire system or entire disk.
This type of image-based backup creates a file that is an exact copy of your entire disk, even copying bad sectors.
It allows you to upload the image file to the backup storage and its size is proportional to the capacity of the disk you copied. You can create a block-level backup of your entire system with all drives or just a specific partition.
Image-level backup is useful when you want to create a master image of your computer or server and keep it in a state that allows you to recover the computer or your service in an emergency.
In case of loss of your system the recovery time is dramatically reduced. Literally within half an hour everything can be back to normal. It is an ideal solution for companies where delay can be catastrophic, such as banks, energy management systems, etc
Your copies will be bootable. That is, you can even change hardware without creating any problems.
Image level backup is usually taken once a week or month due to high storage requirement and long process time. It does not allow you to have copies of the last hour, resulting in partial data loss.
Large backup storage space requirement
File layer VS image layer: A quick comparison
|File level||Image level|
|Type of copies||It can back up files and folders||Ideal for system, disk, partition and file backup.|
|Frequency||You can create a file-level backup multiple times a day.||Image level backup is usually taken once a week or month.|
|Size||It can back up data at a lower level. Hence, the backup size is relatively low.||Since it is used to back up your entire system, the image file size is relatively large.|
|Recovery options||You can restore files or folders.||You can restore the entire system, disk or partition.|
|Recovery time||In case of major damage, the recovery time is also long||Direct|
In short, you should use file-level backup for your daily file backup. On the other hand, block level backup is suitable when you want to back up your entire system with files, folders, app data, settings and more.
Either way, both operating systems (Windows, Linux, etc.) and third-party programs have a huge range of solutions for backup. This issue will not be particularly difficult for you.
Choosing each method depends on your needs for frequency, space and recovery time. and it is not necessary to use only one of the two solutions. If you see fit for your needs, you can use both at the same time.
Regular backups of your files are essential if you're dealing with important data that you can't afford to lose. You can back up your important files regularly and restore them with just one click.
On the other hand, image-level copies are particularly useful for instant recovery of an entire system.
If you are not sure which solution is right for you, here are some questions to help you choose:
- Can I back up large amounts of files?
- Can I afford to reset my system within three days?
- Is one hour's worth of data or can I make do with the previous day's data?