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Archiving's two primary use cases

Data archiving is often incorrectly assumed to be an extension of backup. That’s mainly because earlier technology limitations necessitated the use of backup software to store data on devices.

Storing information that is not frequently accessed but must be retained is archiving. An archiving system’s defining characteristics are speed of access, the cost of storing the information over decades, and the ability to access data in context by the application.

There are two primary archiving use cases. Many software programs are available to move and manage the information on an archive system, with features that take into account those two use cases.

The first of archiving use case is to store information that has reached a known point in a process or business. The known point could be when a project finishes, but the project information must be retained for a future requirement. An example of this could be a construction project where materials such as schedules, product information, and sub-contracts, are required to be retained after the project finishes. The information still needs to be available and may be accessed intermittently but it has a low probability of access.

There are many examples for this first archiving usage and they exhibit a similar operational characteristic: the information, typically in the form of a set of files, needs to be moved to the archiving system and protected with multiple copies when archived. Maintaining indexes and controls for access over the information in addition to the movement to the archiving system are part of the characteristics of archiving software used in this case.

The second of the two primary archiving usages is to move data that is no longer active off high performance expensive storage. Moving the data to an archive system frees up space for critical data on the primary storage tier and lessens the need to purchase additional capacity. Protecting the data at the time of archive according to the data protection requirements also takes that data out of the regular backup process, reducing backup windows.

Sophisticated software lets organizations automate the selection and movement of the inactive data while providing seamless access to the information on the archive system.

Both use cases for archiving provide valid justification for archiving storage systems and software. More information on archiving can be found on the Evaluator Group site.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).