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Backup vs. archive

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The terms backup and archive are often used interchangeably, but they refer to distinctly different technical and business applications. Backing up data typically means creating a copy on media that allows it to be restored quickly in the event of data/network corruption or loss of the original. Backup data generally isn't searchable because it's assumed that if you need to restore, you'll likely restore an entire file or dataset. In addition, backups aren't usually kept for long periods of time or in a manner that guarantees authenticity of the information.

The biggest difference between backups and archives is versioning. Backups can contain multiple versions of a file or dataset to restore data to a specific point in time. An archive is a single version or "state" of data at a particular point in time that must be guaranteed to be authentic with the same integrity it had when it was in production. Another defining attribute of an archive is that once it's created, the information within it is usually removed from online storage.

Archival policies are typically driven by regulatory compliance or as part of an information lifecycle management initiative. In either case, it's crucial that archived data is searchable and readily available--producing archived data in an untimely manner can result in financial and, possibly, legal penalties.

Document management
Once ERP data has been extracted to a file, document management becomes critical. In many cases, document management capabilities are provided by the same tool that does the data extraction. For example, Livelink ECM moves data from SAP to files, and provides the means to manage and view the files. Princeton Softech can extract complete business transactions from JD Edwards, Oracle E-Business Suite and other ERP apps, and includes management and viewing features. It offers similar capabilities for ERP applications running on an Oracle or DB2 database structure.

Some archiving applications extract the data and hand off management chores to a separate document management tool. In addition to generating dynamic archives, HP's RIM for Databases and Solix Technologies' Archivejinni can create static archive files, but they don't offer document management capabilities. For example, once RIM has created an XML file or object with appropriate business-related meta data, the meta data must be loaded into a Documentum, FileNet or Mobius-type tool for long-term data management. Documentum Archive Services for SAP typically manages data processed by SAP in the form of "print lists" or reports. In this case, SAP extracts business data from the SAP tables and creates an appropriate file or object with associated meta data. Documentum Archive Services for SAP then uses SAP ArchiveLink to import the file and its meta data into the archive for long-term management.

Securing the archive
With all the movement of content, it's important to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to it. The application managing the content enforces rules that describe who can access which pieces of information. When the data is in a dynamic structured format, the database application maintains the access rules. Once the data is extracted to a file-based archive, the document management application enforces access control.

Database archiving is a crucial step in the long-term management of an ERP production application. Archiving moves data from one level of business criticality to another, with each level having different availability and performance requirements. Some companies stop with the creation of dynamic archive tables, while others may skip this step to develop a static archive. By understanding what data is archived and how it will be accessed, a storage administrator can ensure that archived ERP content is stored and protected appropriately.

This was first published in April 2007

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