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Cloud storage for archiving

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Cloud archiving services can offer accessibility and data preservation at a fraction of the cost of building an on-site archive infrastructure.

It wouldn't seem necessary to start a discussion about archiving by defining the term, but it is. In the early days of computing, archiving was understood to be the process of moving data on tape to a remote facility for long-term storage. Now, however, archiving has taken on numerous meanings based on context. Archiving can be the “auto-archive” simplicity of Microsoft Outlook, moving older data to cheaper storage as well as more traditional long-term off-line storage. In the context of cloud computing, we’ll define it to mean relegating data to a third-party location for the purposes of lowering costs, improving data protection or both while still maintaining a reasonable degree of data access.

How long is long?

Regardless of context, implicit in the notion of archive is time -- typically a long time. But “long” is a relative concept. For most financial data it means seven years, 20 years for pharmaceutical research, and more than 50 years for some medical records and nuclear records. In general, retaining data on spinning (or even spin-down) disk for 10 years or more is cost-prohibitive even in the cloud. So, for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll define “long” as between one year and seven years. For data retention exceeding seven years, disk systems will be the media of choice in only

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specialized applications. Some examples of those specialized apps include geospatial data (i.e., oil and gas exploration images), medical images and aircraft maintenance logs where the frequency of access is low but the probability of retrieval at some point is high; therefore, the time and difficulty of recovering 15-year-old tapes is likely to be unacceptable.

This was first published in May 2012

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