ESG study shows increasing convergence of backup and archive

According to a recent study conducted by ESG's Jason Buffington, backup and archive are converging as backup products add archiving functionality.

A recent Enterprise Strategy Group survey on tape use indicates that users are increasingly taking a converged approach to backup and archiving, according to Jason Buffington, senior analyst and lead researcher on the study.

Eighty-three percent of survey respondents said that they were using their backup software for all or part of an archiving strategy. Forty-one percent use backup software as their only means for archiving data.

Buffington believes that this may indicate a "third wave" of awareness about backup and archive. Initially, many considered backup and archive the same. But backup software traditionally has not offered a means for indexing data for search. So, there was a push to separate the two. "Today, people are thinking honestly about backup and archive -- and seeing they are complementary," he said.

Maintaining separate backups and archives creates a lot of redundant data. To address this issue, many backup vendors have added archiving features to their backup software products.

"Converged data protection is starting to make sense," Buffington said. "The archiving features in backup software are good enough for many organizations. Or at least the pain of using backup software for archiving doesn't outweigh the cost and complexity of managing separate platforms. But you still have to be careful. Backup vendors do try to cash in on remaining confusion between backup and archive."

Using one product for both backup and archive is not an option for every organization. According to Buffington, if users are just looking to shrink or groom their primary storage, backup software is completely adequate. Even if context-aware retention and cataloging are important, at this point, many backup products offer that functionality. But if an organization is looking for specific auditing, e-discovery, hold and compliance features, archiving-specific software is still required.

Also, while archiving and data grooming can increase storage performance, most respondents are not archiving specifically for this purpose. "Preservation of data is still more important to users than data grooming at this point," Buffington said.

Tape remains in the backup picture

Another interesting finding: Tape use numbers for backup and archive were "nearly identical," according to Buffington. Disk backup offers faster restore times, and tape has been increasingly positioned by experts and vendors alike as an archiving target. So, it is somewhat surprising that is being used equally for backup and archive.

Also, respondents using tape for archiving said that data recovered from tape-based archives is typically less than 24 months old and less than 25 GB. "Tape is not the obvious medium for that," Buffington said.

Buffington pointed to cloud storage as another possible target for data of that age, but said that is still a "tire kicker," and reservations remain among users. However, he expects increased use of cloud storage for archiving in the near future. "When asked why they are not using archiving software, the majority of respondents said they were looking into cloud for archiving, and the top request of an archiving-specific product is an on-ramp to cloud storage."

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