Free Incremental Backup Software

Free Incremental Backup Software

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Before jumping into the discussion about differences between differential and incremental backups, we should mention their so-called predecessor – the first backup type called “full backup”.

Full backup

Full backup is probably the most well-known backup level, probably because it is the most straightforward of them all. Full backup creates a copy of all of your files at that exact moment, and that is all that it does. This backup type might be suitable for small companies as the only one used, but problems with it typically increase  exponentially as a result of the amount of data that needs to be backed up on a regular basis.

Constant backups of large databases often result in a heavy bandwidth usage, i/o bottlenecks, drastic increase of the time it takes for each backup to be done, and more. There is also the fact that due to all of these problems it is physically difficult to  do a full backup more than, say, once a week without running into various problems – and a week of data lost in case of a disaster could easily cause a company’s downfall.

Because a lot of data does not change at all for long periods of time, every full backup will likely include a lot of duplicate data that has already been backed up. However, by using more sophisticated software that offers incremental backup or differential backup (or a combination of both), this situation can be somewhat avoided.

Differential backup

The first attempt to solve this problem outlined above with Full level backup resulted in differential backup being developed. Differential backup’s prime purpose is to create a backup of all the data that has been changed since the last full backup happened. This approach can drastically change the amount of data that needs to be copied each time, but there are typically still a significant number of duplicate files generated.

Differential backup takes all of the data that changed since the last full backup. As a result, repeated differential backups are likely to have data duplicates. Despite that problem, using a differential backup along with the Full tends to decrease the overall load on a company’s servers and networks since the amount of backed up data drops to some extent. In addition, users of differential backup tend to have much higher RPOs since you can do differential backups much often than the full ones.

Nevertheless, Differential level, for all its advantages may still not be the optimal level to use, and it is therefore a good idea to consider another level called 'Incremental'.

Free incremental backup software

Incremental backup is another way to address the difficulties that come with using full (and differential) backups. In this case, an incremental backup creates a copy of all data that was changed since the last backup happened (regardless of whether it was full backup or another incremental).

Performing multiple incremental backups is a popular way of lessening the amount of data that can potentially be lost if there’s a need to restore an entire system from the  backup.

At the same time, incremental backups are not perfect, either. The obvious advantage is the decrease in the storage space taken and the lack of duplicated data. It is countered by the need for every single one of the incremental backups since the last full one to be present to restore the data to its fullest. This also increases the overall restoration time since all of the smaller backups need to be  connected together and then restored as a complete database.

Comparing each of the backup types with the other ones may have limited merit since there are many cases where these backup levels are used in parallel to provide optimal performance and results for any given company. Of course, since so many organizations treat their data as an extremely valuable - even critical - asset, commercial or open source incremental backup software is perhaps more popular than backup software that focuses more on differential backups.

Other existing backup types

We also have several different incremental backup software examples below to make it easier to find one free incremental backup solution for your specific use case. However, it would also be wise to go over some of the lesser-known backup types beforehand – backup types that are still useful in their own specific circumstances.

Mirror backup

Mirror backup could be the most simple backup type on this list. It does exactly what it says it does – perform a complete copy of the system that is stored separately from the source. However, there is a difference between a mirror backup and a full backup – a mirror backup does not apply any advanced backup technologies to the copy of the data such as deduplication or compression.

The advantage of this approach is that it makes accessing said data a lot easier whenever there is a need for it. The obvious disadvantage here is that this copy would be a lot bigger than a full backup of your system – which is already considered large by the backup industry standards. Additionally, the very nature of a mirror backup implies that there is only one copy of your data that is made this way, and it is the most recent one – meaning that any company with significant data mobility would have a number of issues with this backup type.

Synthetic Full backup

A synthetic full backup can be best described as a combination of incremental and full backup types. But this also raises a question of how different a synthetic full backup is from a combined use of full and incremental backups – and the word “integration” is the answer.

Every specific amount of time the full backup and all of the incremental backups are integrated into a single backup that rewrites all of the older data with the most recent data. This creates some sort of a cycle of creating a full backup, creating incremental backups, and integrating all of them into a single synthetic full backup.

This particular approach is relatively lightweight when it comes to storage requirements for backups, purely because the data gets overwritten quite a lot. At the same time, overwriting data as a part of the process makes it impossible to perform any form of versioning whatsoever.

Even though synthetic full backup is already a backup combination, there can be further variations of this kind of backup. A progressive virtual full backup is one such example, offering a backup type that solves the need for a completely new full backup to be created and then for it to overwrite the previous one.

What progressive virtual full backup does is use advanced index management to determine what areas are actually new and only create a copy of them, significantly decreasing both the size of the new backup and the amount of data operations performed on a regular basis. It also reduces the total amount of time needed to perform every backup cycle, because there is a lot less data to be saved in the first place.

Forever Incremental backup

Forever incremental backup is a modification of a usual “full + incremental” backup type combination that automates the process of removing older incremental backups in order to save storage space. Of course, it is not as simple as that, and the process itself is somewhat more complicated.

The way forever incremental backup works is by creating a number of “blocks” every time an incremental backup is launched. That way, older “blocks” can be removed whenever a newer “block” with the same data is created. This allows for forever incremental backup to be relatively economical when it comes to backup storage space, and it also removes the potential issue of a regular incremental backup taking too much space with too many backups that are not deleted in time.

Reverse Incremental backup

Reverse incremental backup is largely similar to another backup type we have mentioned before called “synthetic full”. The biggest difference here is that every single incremental backup that is made after the full one is immediately combined with said full backup to create a complete backup of your system with the most recent information.

This backup type also supports versioning, to a certain degree – it leaves a number of incremental backups “behind” after they were fused with the full one to leave the possibility of rolling back some of the changes whenever there is a need to do so. Additionally, reverse incremental backup can also be convenient when it comes to the restoration process – there is no need for all of the incremental backups to be present for the correct backup to be used because the existing full backup is already the most recent copy of your data.

Different examples of free incremental backup software

The incremental backup type is typically a good way to keep your data up-to-date without large drawbacks, which is why there are plenty of different backup solutions that can perform incremental backups.

There are several categories of free incremental backup software depending on their pricing model. As such, we are going to split our list of examples into three parts. The first part is going to cover solutions that are completely free with no additional payments involved whatsoever.

cobian backup landing page

Both Cobian Backup and Cobian Reflector are the creations of Luis Cobian – a software developer from Sweden. Cobian Backup is a user-friendly incremental backup solution that offers a variety of different features to its users, including multiple backup types, several backup storage locations (disk, network location, FTP), data encryption, data compression, and more. Cobian Reflector is a completely new backup solution based on .NET to build upon the capabilities of Cobian Backup and add more features to it – such as DPI independency, SFTP transfer support, and so on.

comodo backup landing page

Comodo Backup is another example of an incremental backup software that is completely free and packs a wealth of different features – for example, Comodo has its own online storage as a potential backup storage location (paid feature), as well as support for backup versioning and backup scheduling. Other features of Comodo Backup include the ability to configure and run scripts using command line prompts, the ability to set up backup strategies that can be executed with just one click, and many others.

Our second group of free incremental backup software is going to showcase several examples of solutions that are free, but have some sort of limitation in their capabilities, be it the amount of data that could be backed up, the number of devices that can be protected, and so on.

cbackup landing page

CBackup is a cloud backup software with a dedicated free version that supports incremental backup for different Windows versions. A free version of CBackup offers every new user 10 Gb of free cloud storage to work with – as well as the ability to expand that limit with additional payments. CBackup can also transfer copies of your data to one of several popular cloud storage providers – be it OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. CBackup is also capable of offering a number of generally useful backup-related features, such as AES-256 backup encryption, as well as many others.

easeus todo backup landing page

EaseUS Todo Backup is a rather notable backup and recovery solution that is suitable for both companies and individuals. It is a powerful data recovery platform that supports devices on Windows, macOS, as well as Android and iOS devices. It can perform data transfer operations, create backups, and restore backups. It also has features such as disk cloning, data encryption, one-click backup capabilities, and even custom messages to be sent to specific recipients after every backup or recovery operation. It is also incredibly convenient, since all of the tools have a cloud version that can be accessed from any device. EaseUS Todo Backup has both free and paid versions of its software, with the free version being somewhat limited in its capabilities and only offering up to 250 Gb of cloud storage as a free user.

aomei backupper landing page

AOMEI Backupper is a comprehensive data protection solution with many different features. It was released back in 2009 and continued to evolve ever since, offering a variety of different capabilities ranging from standard backup and restore operations to ransomware protection and system migration. AOMEI’s solution can create several different backup types, perform disk imaging, synchronize files and folders, schedule backups, manage partitions, automate backup and recovery operations, and many other useful capabilities.

Last, but not least, is a group of backups that only have a timed trial as their means of free access to software or a solution

wondershare ubackit landing page

UBackit from Wondershare is a relatively unknown but effective incremental backup software that boasts user-friendly interface and a simplistic process of managing various backup tasks. Wondershare UBackit can perform different types of backup tasks, offers extensive data protection capabilities, can perform in-depth file/folder search, and more. UBackit’s possible backup targets are files, disks, partitions, NAS devices, and even Outlook data. There is also versioning and data encryption, and the solution itself is available for a month for free before asking for payment.

backup4all landing page

If the previous solution is more about user-friendliness, Backup4all is more focused on being as simple as it gets. Not only is the solution itself extremely easy to use, but there are also plenty of different guides to help even the least experienced users with various tasks. It can create different backup types - not just incremental - there is also extensive versioning and plenty of different Windows versions supported. Backup4all has several different versions, and they are not structured in a way most of the backup solutions do. The basic version of Backup4all is a regular standalone software that can only be installed on regular personal computers. The portable version of the software can only be deployed to external devices such as USB sticks, and the “monitor” version is a newer version of the same solution that has remote monitoring as its main purpose. Backup4all also does not have any form of subscription and only sells per-person perpetual licenses, and there is also a free 30-day trial available for new users.

novabackup landing page

NovaBackup, on the other hand, is not that user-friendly or modern in terms of the interface – but it compensates for it with a massive feature set. NovaBackup is a versatile and powerful backup and recovery solution that aims to help both individuals and small businesses with securing and restoring sensitive data. It has a detailed setup wizard, backup automation capabilities, and data verification. As for more advanced features, there are also bare-metal restore capabilities, backup multi-threading, advanced encryption, and more. NovaBackup does not technically have a free trial, but it does have a 30-day money back guarantee, which could perhaps be interpreted by some as a free trial!

Bacula Community

As outlined above, there are a good number of different backup solutions that are capable of performing incremental backups. However, there is one more important example of a completely free incremental backup software called Bacula Community. Bacula Community is often considered the best open source incremental backup available, as it offers very high security, and an especially large range of features and capabilities. Important for medium and large organizations is that Bacula is extremely robust, scalable and stable. As part of its broad range of features, it offers flexibility and customizability regarding different backup levels. This possibility to fine-tune backup levels and other relevant controls makes Bacula a favorite among system administrators looking to solve network saturation issues, achieve successful backups within limited time windows, increase their storage destination options, or take more resolute action against the threat of ransomware. Bacula is operated by either command line interface or a choice of web-based GUI’s.

Bacula’s highly efficient code is a result of being extensively tested and modified by its large open source community over the years, with well over four million downloads to date.

There is also a large community that revolves around Bacula, providing support, advice and learning to address the majority of problems in the shortest amount of time with the knowledge-base that comes from so many experienced users already benefiting from Bacula Community.

If you’re also interested in Exchange Backup, check out Bacula’s solution.

About the author

Rob Morrison

Rob Morrison started his IT career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, which developed into a wide variety of IT management roles for almost 10 years. He has subsequently held various management positions in professional open source companies such as JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho, contributing to the growth of these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Digital Media and Communications BSc Honours degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.