Backup is the ability or act of safeguarding information by making a copy on a device that will not be destroyed or deleted simultanously with the original. Restore is the ability to put the information back into a usable form, on the same or different computer or disk.
There are many ways to create backups. Some methods, like using Windows Explorer to Copy and Paste selected files to an external device, network drive, USB stick or whatever, is a form of backup and so are many file synchronization applications that one can download freely from the web. These methods, however, are not convenient, very manual and subject to the user remembering to do the process each time and in the same manner.
Specialized backup and restore software takes care of the scheduling and insures that information is protected on a timely basis. It is usually easy to use and provides user convenience.
Backing up to a localle connected external drive is the traditional backup. It is quick, provides instant access in case of emergency recovery need and it is inexpensive. One backup device will provide many years' of service.
Local backups come in two major varieties: Native file format and Virtual format.
With native file format, the user can very easily browse or recover all or individual files. The backup process can take relatively a long time to complete, especially the first time it is run.
Virtual image backups usually run much faster than native file format backups. They are more comples to use, as the virtual environment must be mounted to gain access to the files. Not all virtual applications provide for the ability to restore individual files.
You can backup the entire system, selected data,or selected folders. Very flexible.
Cloud backup means you must have an internet connection and a hosting service. You purchase some amount of storage capacity from the provider, install their application on your system and start the backup process.
You can only backup data; music files, videos, spreadsheet files, word processing files, etc. You cannot backup applications or the entire system.
A major advantage of cloud backup is that the data is not stored locally, so in case of a fire, theft, etc. your files are safe.
Major disadvantages of cloud backup are: