Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) Backup

Data backup helps to safeguard relevant data from corruption or loss, and organizations keep searching for a better way to back up their data. Some backup methods only provide one backup level, but those that offer more, even up to three backup cycles, triple the data protection. One such effective backup is the 3-2-1 strategy the grandfather-father-son (GFS) backup scheme provides. It conducts backup on three levels: monthly, weekly, and daily to protect against loss and ensure the safe restoration of lost data.

This article explores the GFS backup scheme and how it works, including its advantages and disadvantages.

What is Grandfather-Father-Son Backup?

The Grandfather-father-son (GFS) backup scheme is a data retention strategy designed to protect critical data through a hierarchical data backup method. There are three versions of the data: the grandfather, father, and son, and each version backs up data monthly, weekly, and daily, respectively.

You can restore lost data using this 3-2-1 backup strategy from old backups, not just snapshots, ensuring a safer data environment.

How Does GFS Backup Work?

GFS backup happens cyclically, with each backup occurring at the scheduled time repeatedly. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  • Grandfather Backups:

This is the oldest backup in the GFS scheme. The grandfather backup occurs monthly and is usually stored off-site. For example, if an organization schedules a backup for every last day of the month, the grandfather backup will take place every last day of each month, creating a monthly cycle.

  • Father Backups:

The father backup cycle occurs at the end of every week. At the end of the week, the system will store the last (father) backup in a local storage or hot cloud where they can easily access it.

  • Son Backups:

The son backup represents the most recent backup. It usually occurs daily, providing the present data copy. Unlike the grandfather and father backup, which is a full backup, the son cycle may not be complete. It may be incremental or differential, depending on the business needs.

Full vs. Incremental vs. Differential vs. Synthetic Backups

There are four available backup types. While full backups consume a lot of space, you can opt for the other backup types to reduce storage space and bandwidth. The four methods include:

1. Full Backups: A full backup copies all the data from the source device to the backup destination. It captures all the data and also creates a complete snapshot of the data. Full backups are standalone and can easily be stored on-site or off-site, making them ideal for data recovery. However, they consume the most bandwidth and storage space.

2. Incremental Backups: Incremental backups do not capture the complete data every time. Instead, it only captures the changes made after the last backup. Thus, it reduces storage usage and backup time.

3. Differential Backup: Differential backup is similar to incremental backup, as it also captures the changes made after the last backup. But unlike incremental backup, it always references the previous backup. Hence, it requires more space than incremental backups but not as much as a full backup. However, it is faster to restore data using this method.

4. Synthetic Backup: The synthetic backup is a combination of full and incremental backup. It creates a synthetic full backup by combining the full backup stored in the cloud with the subsequent incremental backups. So it can reduce the backup window while offering the benefit of a full backup process.

Advantages of Using the Grandfather-Father-Son Backup

Below are some of the benefits of the GFS backup scheme:

  • Efficient Use of Storage: Organizations can use storage resources more efficiently because the GFS scheme allows you to define the number of backups at each level.
  • Scalability: GFS is highly scalable, enabling users to extend their backup scheme and efficiently protect large datasets. You can even upgrade the cyclical storage to accommodate great-grandfather, a yearly backup. GFS can also handle large amounts of data across multiple machines, leading to higher efficiency.
  • Simplicity: The GFS backup method is easy to comprehend and configure. The different backup cycles help to reduce complexity and make the backup process efficient and easy.
  • Reliability: The GFS backup scheme is very reliable. It ensures data security by creating multiple copies of data. So you can access old data even if one copy gets lost because of hardware failure. It offers 3x security when compared to a single backup. Also, since the grandfather backup is stored offsite, it is more reliable and less likely to get lost or corrupted.
  • Past Data Availability: You can always restore old data from any point in time because of the availability of three backup sets.

Disadvantages of Using the Grandfather-Father-Son Backup

GFS backup strategy is no doubt very effective. However, it still has its downsides:

  • Storage Requirements: A major downside to GFS is the storage requirement. Depending on how frequently you backup, you may need very large storage space to accommodate the backups. However, this won’t be a problem if you invest in an extensive storage space.
  • Recovery Time: Recovering data will take a long due to the lengthy backup cycle. This is especially true when you are recovering old data. Hence, the slow recovery time leads to slow processing.
  • Network Bandwidth: The large backup leads to an increased consumption of network bandwidth, especially when copying data across multiple nodes. If other applications are running on the same infrastructure, it will impact overall performance.
  • Cost: Due to the infrastructure needed to carry out GFS backup, the cost of operation can be high. An organization must consider the hardware, software, storage space, and maintenance costs before deciding to implement this backup scheme.

How does Storware Backup and Recovery supports Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) Backup?

Storware Backup and Recovery supports GFS backup rotation by allowing users to define backup policies and retention rules based on the GFS scheme. Users can configure the frequency of backups (Son), the retention period for intermediate backups (Father), and the retention period for long-term archival backups (Grandfather). This allows organizations to create a backup strategy that aligns with their specific retention and recovery requirements.

Additionally, Storware Backup and Recovery provides features such as scheduling, incremental backups, deduplication, and compression to optimize backup processes and reduce storage requirements. It also offers options for backup replication, offsite storage, and disaster recovery, ensuring data protection and business continuity. Learn more.


The Grandfather-father-son backup scheme is an effective way to backup data to prevent data loss. It uses three backup cycle systems called the grandfather, father, and son backup. They occur monthly, weekly, and daily, respectively. The GFS backup system offers simplicity, reliability, and efficient storage use.

However, it requires massive storage, wide network bandwidth, slow recovery time, and can be expensive to use. Before choosing this backup method, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons to decide if it’s effective for you.

text written by:

Łukasz Błocki, Professional Services Architect