One of the biggest misunderstandings that exist in the minds of decision makers is that data backup and data archive mean the same thing. In truth, each has its own purpose and each plays a different role in data protection.

As the saying goes “Backup is for recovery. Archive is for discovery.”


The Definition of Backup

Data backups are used for operational recoveries, which means that if you have a file that is overwritten or corrupted in your database, by employing a backup strategy, you will be able to recover the original file. Backup is a recurring, systematic & planned approach to copying active data that is frequently modified or accessed in order to preserve its active content.


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The Definition of Archive

Data is typically designated as inactive if it has not been modified or accessed in over a specified amount of time, for example, over 90 days.

Archiving is a static backup copy of groups of older inactive data that is no longer needed for daily operations. Archives preserve inactive information as required by law and/or company policy. Archiving is considered a necessity because even inactive documents may not be completely useless or irrelevant.

For example, a week-old “out of office” email may someday help document an employee’s attendance record, an old product brochure may help resolve a warranty question, or an expense report may help confirm a particular tax deduction. The challenge with archived data is that no one can predict which part of an archived data file will be required or when that access will occur.

Archived data has some important additional features, such as the ability to implement eDiscovery and legal hold & search capabilities that backup does not. These features deliver additional benefits in archiving, such as:

  • The ability to search if a document is in use or idle.
  • The ability to separate idle documents to an economical archive storage.
  • Ability to classify and index archived documents thus enabling rapid discovery.

These impressive features bring forward additional business benefits as well, which include the ability to:

  • Reduce the amount of data that requires back up.
  • Reduce the time required to backup.
  • Reduce the amount of additional storage hardware required to backup.
  • Archiving reduces the cost of “primary” storage – usually archives are stored on slower, cheaper, storage, or in the cloud.
  • Better system performance (less load on the systems with data repositories)

As the amount of data being backed up grows at an exponential rate, the cost benefit of having an archive process becomes crystal clear.

What other differences do you think there are between archiving and backup?


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