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All about archiving

We recently covered the irritation that IT managers feel when people confuse backups and archives and talked about exactly what does and does not define a backup.

Now we’re going to tackle the archive – what it is and why it is necessary.

Essentially, the major difference between a backup and an archive is that a backup creates an exact copy that is frequently updated, while an archive involves moving valuable data from a primary system to another long-term storage system.

Turning to the Storage Networking Industry Association’s (SNIA) definition:

An archive is “a collection of data objects, perhaps with associated metadata, in a storage system whose primary purpose is the long-term preservation and retention of that data”.

That essentially means that an archive isn’t a constantly changing copy of business data (like a backup), but rather a primary version of data, which is often inactive or static. When data stops being updated or is no longer frequently used, it is best moved to an archive, where it can live outside a backup window but still remain available when required.

An example might be building blueprints which aren’t required on a regular basis but will inevitably be needed at some point in the future and therefore should not be deleted.

As such, an archive isn’t about “recovering” applications, data or even whole operating systems – that’s the job of a backup. Instead, archives are typically used for long-term retention of data.

They allow for information retrieval usually at a very granular level – to enable the retrieval of an individual file, e-mail, or any other discrete piece of content. This might be used for data mining, e-discovery, audits or reference. It is these characteristics that make archiving the best choice for managing data to meet regulatory or governance requirements.

The differences between backup and archiving are emphasized by the consequences of their absence: without an effective backup system for data recovery, a ransomware attack could result in either a total loss of data or in having to pay the ransom demand to retrieve business data.

On the other hand, if a business fails to effectively manage its archive and is unable to comply with a request to delete personal data, it could face heavy fines, especially in Europe, where GDPR is now in force.

Take the smartphone as an everyday example. In our last blog we talked about the regular backups that make a copy of your freshly-generated data like photos, but what about those pictures of holiday scenes or plates of food from years ago?

You might not be ready to delete them entirely, but maybe you want to use the space on your phone for more recent shots. That’s when you would archive the older pictures, perhaps to an external drive, then delete them from your phone to free up space.

That way, they are no longer part of the regular backup process which copies your phone’s contents to the cloud, but they are still stored in case they are needed again.

Now to the last point of today’s lesson on (backups and) archiving: Although a backup is not an archive an archive needs to be backed up! For example, what if an external drive storing your archived holiday pictures was damaged? In this case, your pictures would be lost forever. That’s why you need to create a backup copy of archived files.

The challenge facing IT managers is how to balance business needs for protecting data related to everything from high availability and rapid access to information and regulatory requirements while maximizing the efficiency of their storage system. Many businesses store far more than they need on their primary backup systems – with analysts estimating that as many as four out of five files are inactive.

Unfortunately, that also means a great deal of expensive online storage capacity is being wasted on creating backups of data that is not mission critical. Also, all additional data copied to backups not only extends the time taken to create each copy but also increases the burden on network and increases restore times.

This is why archiving is important. But unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as each company has a unique set of requirements.

With 50 years of experience, Fujitsu has a comprehensive portfolio of solutions and appliances to meet all backup and archiving needs plus the expertise to identify the right technology and take the right approach to meet each business’ data protection needs.  Talk to us today to start co-creating the right solution for your business.

Alternatively, join us at Fujitsu Forum Munich in November, where you’ll see our data protection portfolio in action: http://www.fujitsu.com/global/microsite/forum-2018/

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