In the case that storage is not a problem: are there actually any good reasons for doing incremental backups instead of just doing full backups?

This could actually refer to any database with full & incremental backups. In this case we use a Progress OpenEdge RDBMS with support for both backup plans as well as real time transactional log archiving. Apart from that I don't think the question must relate to a single vendor. The choice of full/incremental backup can apply to lots of different database engines.

  • What RDBMS are you using? If you are referring to SQL Server, the closest kind of incremental backup is transaction log backup where it performs log truncation as well as point in time recovery.
    – Travis
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:21
  • I am actually not. We are using Progress RDBMS so it's totally not related to SQL Server. I can basically choose full or incremental backups as well as real time transaction log file archiving.
    – Jensd
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:24
  • Which version are you using - out of curiosity.
    – ETL
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:42
  • 11.2 so the very latest. Our databases are not that big but I find online full backup to be very quick and not really impacting performance too much.
    – Jensd
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:43
  • 1
    @Ali Postgres gurus yes -- but not PROgress -- different bread of cat.
    – ETL
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:50

3 Answers 3


Time for the backup to run is a reason for doing incremental backup on Progress. My backup is running fast enough that I did not need to use this function and I'm still doing only full backups.

It also depends on your requirements. For example, if you have heavy financial transactions and you want to keep a backup every hour or something like that, you would need to do incremental (or real time).

But unless you have something forcing you to do incremental, I would do full backup, I find that easier to restore.

In terms of performance impact, if you have a fast disk array, I haven't seen much impact of doing a backup even during moderately heavy usage. Obviously it depends also on the size of your system. I'm talking about a 37Gb DB.


If space is not a problem, time can be. An incremental backup will usually take less time than a full backup. Many DBAs do not have maintenance windows long enough to do full backups during the week (if the full one takes a couple of hours for example) and have to resort to incremental backup every night.

If you want to know more about backups and restore operations (and working with Sql Server), you could do much worse than have a look at the book by by Shawn McGehee, SQL Server Backup and Restore.

If both time and space are of little concern for you, you can go on with the easiest maintenance plan, consisting of only full backups (with or without transaction log backups). It very much depends on amount of data you have, the duration of your maintenance window and your SLA (service level agreement) if you have one.

  • Thank you. That would lead me to ask: if time and storage is not an issue... After all incremental backups leads to a more complicated restore phase.
    – Jensd
    Apr 19, 2013 at 20:08

What RDBMS are you refering to ? MS SQL Server does not have "Incremental backup". It just have full, differential and transaction Log backups.

You can equate (loosly) transaction Log backups as Incremental backup as it will require a FULL backup and all the increments (which are nothing but transaction backups) until the point-in-time failure.

Differential backup works differently, as you only need a FULL backup and the last differential backup and the database can be brought to the point when the differential backup was taken. After that you have to restore T-log backups, so that a point-in-time recovery can be performed.

Considering above facts, most DBA's or server admins prefer Full backups and subsequent Incremetal backup (T-log backups) to a. conserve disk space b. Time required will be less as compared to restoring a FULL backup.

Note that, the recovery model (e.g. BULK LOGGED, SIMPLE, FULL) also plays important role when you go for T-log backups (Obvisously, SIMPLE recovery is out of picture when it comes to taking T-log backups).

The only problem with Incremental (T-log) backups is that if you loose any of those, the database can only be restored to the last unbroken log chain. Imagine someone deleting files, etc. Also managing them is an extra overhead as well.

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