Backing Up Versus Archiving of Data

Although the concepts sound similar, archiving and backing up data are two different processes. The key difference between them is that system and data back ups are aimed at swift operational recovery. Data archiving is not meant to be fast nor iterative. It’s there for historical reference, or as background material, and also needs to be backed up in turn. Here are a few of the differences between the processes, and some considerations for using them in your business.

Backing up of data

Important things to consider when backing up data include:

  • Point of recovery

You should determine your business’s point of recovery (POR) as part of your data recovery policy. This draws a line in the sand about the stage at which files must be recovered for normal operations to resume. This then gives a place for recovery start up if there’s been a disaster or outage.

  • Metadata helps with recovery

Live operational data must have coherent metadata attached. This helps in terms of recovery and searchability. The data itself may change quite frequently, as may the data types. The metadata allows a fluid, dynamic recovery, and can bring back folders and files to their original state after a disaster. Using quality commercial backup software helps maintain metadata references and quality timestamp information, and provides a framework from which to manage a recovery. 

  • Restore time objectives

It’s imperative for a business to have accurate restore time objectives through an automated system. Business operations are dependent on a swift recovery of live data. In the event of a disaster, archival material is usually less crucial.

  • Backup frequency

Live and operational data will most likely be backed up far more often than archival data. You’ll need to tailor a back up frequency plan to your business needs. It may be that some data can be backed up less regularly than other data, depending on the usage. 

Archiving of data

Important things to consider when archiving include:

  • Historical use

While archived material can seem “stale” or dated, it can still have an important role to play in providing past data or a snapshot of the business at a particular point in time. Some historical data may also need to be kept to comply with legal requirements. Therefore archived material must, by its nature, be unchanging and unmoving. So its storage location should always be the same, in contrast to live operational data, which can move depending on the specifications of the system.

  • Accessibility

Finding historical files or documents is crucial when archiving data, so searchability is a key component, even more so than for live data recovery. The nature of old data means that much of it won’t be compatible with current operating systems, or it will all be in different formats. This makes it very difficult to capture metadata. In fact, many older formats (for instance images from the 1990s) won’t even have metadata. It’s quite likely you’ll need a customised automated system that is tailored to your particular archival data needs.

The need for multiple back ups

Finally, it’s important to remember that a single back up isn’t sufficient for either archived material or live data. While archived data can be kept on a separate single storage device, it’s also worth using an online or cloud based system for archival snapshots. A good rule of thumb is that the most critical, valuable data to your business should be backed up three times. And remember that two separate folders on the same network do not count as safe, multiple back ups!