Why backup and archiving are not the same?

Backup and archiving are always mentioned together, as both of these technologies support primary data storage. However, the commonalities end over here and cannot be carried forward. But in enterprise IT world it is often observed that archive is analogous to backup.

Simply put, backup and archive are not the same and here’s why explained in simple terms-

Data Backup- Data backup is intended to recover individual lost or corrupt files, or individually corrupt operating system instances. The backed up data has both active and inactive information which encompasses all of your production data. This backup set is useful for purposes of recovery in case of the original copy of data is lost or becomes inaccessible due to reasons. It is always critical that a backup is a copy of production data and the actual data still resides on the production storage systems.

Backups are historically being optimized for large scale recoveries. They are written in large blocks to dedicated hardware like tape libraries or deduplicated disk backup appliances.

On a typical note, these backups are scheduled, often every 24 hours, sometimes more frequently, even hourly with some continuous data protection solutions. The data driven by a backup is stored on a tape or a disk solution or off site like a cloud platform. Restoration from backup can be a complex and lengthy process depending on the volume of data to be restored.

Data archiving- Data archiving on the other hand, is data meant for long term retention, typically for compliance purposes in regulated industries such as finance and legal sectors. These are actually designed with very different access profiles. These systems typically store individual data objects such as files, databases or email messages and usually also capture metadata associated with each item.  The result is that an archive can provide immediate granular access to stored information and so accessing an individual file or email is typically very easy in an archive system.

Generally, archiving solutions which retain and index all copies and versions of a document, file, or email, making them easily are expected to be rapidly retrievable by end users rather than IT admins.


So, please do not treat your backups as archives or vice versa as same, as they serve for different purposes.


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