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Data backup versus data archiving

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Backup vs. archiving: Make the break

Too many companies believe backup and archiving are one and the same; in fact, they're separate processes that can actually improve each other.


Our IT departments need another process like Bill Gates needs to borrow a few bucks. While there's little chance of ever spotting Bill queued up at your local ATM, it's very likely IT can benefit from evaluating existing processes to see if improvements can be made. One area that should command attention--if it hasn't been addressed already --is the separation of backup (data protection and recovery) from archiving (data retention and retrieval). This effort is especially important because external influences such as record-retention and information privacy regulations must be properly balanced with the need for better overall data protection strategies.

Yes, I'm recommending adding yet another process to IT's long, daily to-do list; but, in reality, most companies can achieve this process refinement by splitting backup into two separate initiatives. The reason is simple: Organizations should differentiate between copying data for recovery, and retaining data for future reference and retrieval.

It took a long time to formalize data protection operations. By now, most shops have ingrained procedures to back up data nightly. The biggest issue for data protection is backing up large volumes of data in a short period

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of time--and there won't be any relief as long as IT continues to protect unchanging data on a regular basis. Archives are still considered part of the backup process because IT is used to retaining historical backups for months or years, typically referring to this data as "corporate archives." Right now, many of you use these archives to meet regulatory requirements or satisfy electronic record-retention programs. The archiving process equates to saving old backups, usually on tape media.

The reasons for keeping archiving separate from backup may not always be evident, largely because the definitions of these terms are often misconstrued. The true definition of archiving was rarely understood or even questioned because it was usually considered something that occurred at the end of data protection operations. It became generally accepted that archives were just copies of historical data created from old backups. Only compliance issues or an electronic discovery request that required delving into the old data would create the need to use an archive. Because this older data was needed relatively infrequently, businesses rarely perceived archives as readily accessible information that could be leveraged in everyday activities.

This was first published in December 2006

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