Data archiving best practices: The difference between backups and archives

In this collection of data archiving tips, learn data archiving best practices and the differences between backups and archives.

One of the most common questions that come up again and again in data backup and recovery is "What's the different between data backups and  archives? Data archives are often confused with data backups. Data backups are used to restore data in case it is lost, corrupted or destroyed. In contrast, data archives protect older information that is not needed for everyday business operations but may occasionally need to be accessed. It's...

crucial to learn data archiving best practices -- an effective data archiving strategy is a necessary part of every IT organization.

Data archiving is the practice of moving data that's no longer being used to a separate storage device. Data backup expert and a senior consultant with Long View Systems Inc. Pierre Dorion defines data archiving as "a single or a collection of historical records specifically selected for long-term retention and future reference." In addition, data archives consist of older data that is still important and necessary for future reference, as well as data that must be retained for regulatory compliance. Data archives are also indexed and have search capabilities so that files and parts of files can be easily located and retrieved.

To help you stay up to date on the latest information on data archiving best practices and data backup, we've collected our top five tips on data backup vs. archiving. Learn why you shouldn't use your backups as archives; whether you use should tape, disk, or the cloud for archiving; and if you go with cloud archiving, how to choose the best cloud archiving service. In addition, learn about how archiving your data prior to backup can increase your data reduction ratios.

1. Data backup vs. data archiving

The backup vs. archive debate has been going on for years, and backup and recovery pundits are constantly saying "backups aren't archives." But data backup and recovery software vendors have started to integrate different functionality into their software, so is this still true? Some examples include data deduplication and data lifecycle management with storage tiering. Is backup catching up with archive functionality, or are the two so fundamentally different that there will always be a void that backup will never be able to bridge? Learn about data backup vs. data archive in this expert tip.

2. Don't use your archiving storage as backup storage

Another important distinction between backups and archives, says W. Curtis Preston, independent backup and recovery expert, is backups are for disaster recovery and data archives are for discovery. A data backup is for restoring lost or corrupted files. So if you accidentally deleted some files, and you need to restore things to the way they previously looked, if you have your backup, you're still in business. In addition, traditional backup software isn't going to help you with archiving so it's important to have separate data archiving software. In this podcast with Curtis, learn about the do's and dont's of using backup storage as archiving storage.

3. Data archiving with tape, disk or the cloud

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) defines an archive as "A collection of data objects, perhaps with associated metadata, in a storage system whose primary purpose is the long-term preservation and retention of that data." In addition, data that is archived is not usually expected to be readily searchable. This definition sounds simple, but presents many problems for administrators. For example, the type of media the data is stored on will affect the speed and ease with which it's restored. Your three basic choices for archiving are tape, disk and the cloud. But how do you choose what's best for your organization? Which is the most expensive? In this article, get the answers to these questions, and learn about data archiving and tape, disk, and cloud storage.

4. Cloud archiving services

As mentioned earlier, a data archiving strategy that's being implemented by more and more organizations is to use a cloud archiving service. Even though there are a plethora of cloud data storage providers, there are only two online storage services that can really be considered viable for enterprises interested in cloud archiving. In the author of this article's opinion, these two companies are Autonomy Zantaz and Iron Mountain Inc. In this article, learn about the pros and cons of these two different cloud archiving services, and how to choose the best cloud service provider for archiving.

5. Data archiving increasing data reduction when done prior to data deduplication

In enterprise data storage, the theme for the past year has been to "do more with less," and some users are controlling data growth by archiving their inactive data before it ever enters the data backup cycle. While this archiving requires some work, storage managers at organizations with data archiving in place have found additional benefits, particularly in data backup, another place where data growth has challenged budgets and infrastructures this year. When this process is done before data deduplication, some users are able to reduce even more data. In this article, learn about data archiving and data deduplication and how using both of these technologies can reduce your backup data.

Editor's tip: For even more information on data backup and data archiving best practices, bookmark our special section on archiving and backup news, trends and tips.

This was first published in May 2010

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