Now that we’re living in an age of cheap and plentiful online backup options, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would still want to use their web hosting accounts as an FTP backup site.
Not only are FTP web host backups insecure, but they can also get you banned from your web host since this is often prohibited in the terms and conditions of the hosting account. In addition to this, using your web hosting account for FTP backup is inefficient and deprives you of critical point-in-time recovery options.
But despite this, we still see many people backing up their data in this way instead of relying on a secure, efficient online backup service.
I could write a whole book about why FTP is a horrible mechanism for backup. But today, I’d like to highlight one of the most important differences: Efficiency.
When you send files through FTP for backup, you have to resubmit all of your data each time in order to compensate for changes which may have taken place since your last backup.
If you’re backing up 30GB of data on a daily basis, this represents almost a terabyte of wasted bandwidth per month!
Online backup, on the other hand, greatly streamlines bandwidth usage through the use of “incremental backups”. In layman’s terms, an incremental backup is simply a backup which focuses exclusively on changed data, while ignoring any data which hasn’t been updated since the previous backup.
And incremental backups come in 2 varieties: File and Block Level
File Level Incremental Backups
File level incremental backups will only back up the files which have changed since the last update. If you only modify or create a single document today, that is the only document which will get backed up. File level backups have the simplest algorithms, but are amongst the least efficient in terms of bandwidth usage.
File level incremental backups work well when users only create small documents.
Block Level Incremental Backup
Block-level backups are more complex than file-level backups, but are also much more efficient now that users are producing larger multimedia documents.
When your computer saves a file onto its hard drive, it will break up the file and spread it out strategically across the hard drive. If you’re working on a very large file, such as a Movie Maker project, it’s quite possible that most of your changes will be confined to only a few of the data blocks which comprise this large file. Instead of backing up the entire file, a block-level incremental backup client will only transfer the modified data blocks.
Incremental backups are a significantly better way to protect your data, when compared to old fashioned FTP backups. Instead of using up a terabyte of bandwidth every month, you can cut your usage down to just 5 GB or less!
That’s a tremendous increase in efficiency. It’s also an important benefit for laptop users that travel a lot and may not always have access to the most reliable internet connections.
Another advantage of the incremental methodology is that it allows you to back up your data continuously. Every time you save a document, the latest copy would be instantly updated to the backup server.
In order to accomplish something similar using a traditional FTP methodology, you’d have to write a script which automatically uploads all of your documents every 15 minutes. For a 30GB hard drive, this would require over 5 petabytes of data transfer every month. Needless to say, this would be impossible for most home users.
And this incremental update methodology is just one of many reasons why online backups are superior to other traditional methodologies such as FTP.