Small businesses owners often confuse data archiving with data backup (and vice versa) and end up purchasing the wrong software tools. But the truth is: Data archiving and data backup serve two different and clearly distinct purposes.
Why archive: Regulations such as MiFID II and Sarbanes-Oxley require you to store information for five to seven years. Archiving software helps store data for these long periods at lower costs compared to other file storage or data backup tools. Archiving tools help to clear up your storage space and move older data to a different storage system.
Why backup: Backup software solutions help businesses cope with data loss. According to one study, 58 percent of small businesses are not prepared for a data loss. Backup software stores a copy of your data and helps you restore and work from the copy in the event of data loss.
Small businesses that mix up data archiving with data backup, or use the same set of capabilities for both, will not be able to effectively prepare their business for regulatory compliance and data loss protection and may end up paying heavy fines or ransoms because they made the wrong product choice.
The question, therefore, is not whether to use data archiving versus backup software; it’s more about how to use each as part of either a cohesive archiving or backup policy to achieve the required levels of disaster recovery and compliance.
This article will help you understand the similarities and differences between data archiving versus backup and will answer why and when you need to use either of the tools or both of them.
Data archiving vs. backup
Which tools are out there?
Data archiving is the process of storing historical data, or data no longer actively used, on a separate storage system. Data archiving helps to retain data for longer periods of time for the sake of record-keeping purposes and for maintaining compliance with regulations.
The key characteristics of archived data and archiving include:
Archived data is not actively used: Archived data comprises historical data, or information that has already served its purpose and is no longer needed for operational activities.
Archived data is the original data, not a copy: Archived data is your original data moved from where it was located earlier to a storage solution where it will be retained for longer periods.
Archived data must remain unchanged: Maintaining data authenticity is a key requisite of archived information. This means that the data must remain unchanged and in its original form. Archived data must be not be modified or tampered with.
Archiving is used to store, organize, and search data: The primary purpose of archiving is to store and organize historical data, not to restore data in case of emergencies or disasters. Searchability is another common requirement of archived data.
Archiving software solutions help you store historical data for longer periods of time without impacting authenticity.
Some of the key features of archiving software include:
Retention management: Allows you to create rule-based workflows to move older data to low-cost storage tiers, set time periods for holding certain types of data in the archived storage, and also define rule exceptions.
Multiple data-type support: Today, your data is spread across your servers, desktops, mobile devices, social media websites, cloud applications, and even the IoT (internet of things). Your archiving software must be able to recognize, collect, and store these varied data types.
Search function: Searchability is a key feature of data archiving software. Users must be able to search by data type, date, author, or any other parameters. Search functions make it easier to locate data easily from large archive volumes.
Security controls: A good archiving policy allows you to define authorization and access rules. Other security features needed include data encryption to safeguard the authenticity of data and audit tracking capabilities to record actions taken by persons who access the archives.
Storage optimization: Storage optimization techniques help you reduce the overall volume of the stored data and thus save costs. It includes capabilities such as a deduplication engine to prevent multiple copies of the same file, features to compress files, etc.
Data backup is the process of creating a copy of your data to allow for its retrieval in the event of data loss due to natural or man-made disasters. This forms a critical part of your business continuity strategy.
The key characteristics of data backups include:
Backups are duplicate copies: Think of a data backup as being akin to the erstwhile carbon paper copies. It is an extra copy of your original data. You can continue to work on your data, and all the changes will be automatically saved in the backed up copy as well.
Backups are helpful for data recovery: Backed up copies of data are used to quickly recover an overwritten file or corrupted database. It is generally not used for audit or compliance purposes.
The speed of data backup and recovery is important: In data backup and restoration, it is important that the changes are made continuously or as quickly as possible. This helps to reduce the lag between the changes made in your original data and that saved in the backed up copy.
Backups are retained for shorter periods: Most data backups are retained for shorter periods of time, for instance, a few days or weeks, since new backup images supersede the previous versions.
Data backup software solutions help to quickly create duplicate copies of your data and restore them in the event of data loss.
Some of the key features of data backup software include:
Automatic scheduled backups: Backup software must automatically run at scheduled times to create a copy of the data. Incremental backups are faster than traditional backups since they only copy the changes.
Data compression: Storage space required is one factor that determines the cost of backup software. Data compression features help reduce the file size, optimize storage space, and reduce costs.
Data/disaster recovery: You must ensure that the RPO (recovery point objective) and RTO (recovery time objective) supported by your software vendor is adequate for your business. New technologies support one-click recovery and do not require the help of tedious intensive copy processes.
Security controls: These ensure the protection of backed up data. Capabilities to look out for include data encryption, access restrictions, antivirus protection, etc.
Backup verification: The last thing you would want when you're trying to restore backed up data in an emergency is to find it corrupted. Backup verification helps verify the integrity of the data and ensures that the backup is made without any errors in them.
Integration with third-party apps: Backup tools must be able to support your databases, email communications, and other specific applications. Integration with third-party software supports easier configuration, backup, and recovery of data between the systems.
Check out our graphic below to get a quick summary of the differences between data archiving and data backup software:
While archiving and backup software share similar features such as data compression and strong security controls, they greatly differ in the purposes they serve.
For backup tools, data integrity and the speed of data recovery is most important.
For archiving software, search functions and the ability to maintain data authenticity matters most.
Archiving and data backup solutions can be either cloud-based or installed on-premises.
Small businesses must clearly identify their data archiving and data backup requirements before purchasing a software tool. Some types of data, such as rough versions of your actual document, need not be archived and can be deleted after use. Others, such as communication with a client or partner, must be archived.
Here are some popular software products that offer data archiving and backup capabilities. Check out the methodology section at the end of this article to learn how the apps for each section were chosen.
Note: Some vendors offer both archiving and backup capabilities in the same tool or in multiple products. Check with software vendors to understand their archiving and/or backup policies, the RTO and RPO they provide (in the case of backup software), and their per GB storage costs.
ArcTitan is data archiving software that helps archive your older business emails. The software supports features such as eDiscovery, data compression, remote access to archived emails, and integration with Office 365 to enhance its search and storage facilities.
ArcTitan also features a search tool that helps to locate and retrieve archived emails with a load performance of 200 emails per second. The software encrypts emails to ensure security and is compliant with regulations such as GDPR.
CloudBerry is primarily a data backup tool that also offers archiving capabilities. It helps you back up and archive data from files, folders, system settings, and servers. Archiving capabilities are supported by only the latest version of CloudBerry, CloudBerry Backup 5.9.
CloudBerry doesn’t offer its own storage space but connects with other major cloud storage providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Oracle, OpenStack, VMware, and ConnectWise. The software offers archive support for Azure, Google, Oracle, and B2.
CloudBerry Backup also supports data compression techniques to reduce the volume of stored data. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and SSL protocols to secure data.
FileHold is document storage software that also offers archiving capabilities. The software’s record management capabilities help manage electronic documents and allow users to add rules for archiving and disposing of inactive data. Disposition rules also allow you to schedule automatic deletion of documents after a specific time period.
FileHold provides disposition reports that provide details on archiving policies, document types, and active and inactive records. The tool also offers document workflow management, scanning, and imaging features.
SolarWinds is data backup and archiving software. The tool automatically backs up data from files and servers. The data stored in the backup storage is automatically archived by the software after a certain period of time, which can be set by the user.
SolarWinds also offers email archiving capabilities. The solution moves emails from the email server and stores them at a different storage location. You can locate and retrieve the stored emails and files using the tool’s search functions. The software secures the archived data using AES encryption and TLS (Transport Layer Security) communication protocols.
Acronis Backup is a data backup and disaster recovery solution that helps replicate files, folders, and server data. It supports both local and cloud backup and offers features such as deduplication engine, granular recovery, centralized web management console, customizable dashboards, role-based user access, and reporting.
The software also provides security features such as AES-256 encryption, AI and machine learning-powered ransomware protection, and regulatory compliance. Acronis offers specific versions of the software for small businesses and for individual use.
CloudAlly is backup software that helps to copy data from Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, G-Suite, Salesforce, Box, and other applications. The tool supports granular item-level search and restore options, daily scheduled backups, and reports.
CloudAlly can detect new users in your network and automatically back up data from their Office 365 account or other applications. This software also supports archiving capabilities and allows users to decide in which geographical region they want their data stored.
CrashPlan helps to back up and recover files from your devices including external hard drives. It also offers a version specifically designed for small business owners, IT consultants, and IT managers: CrashPlan for Small Businesses.
This tool helps to schedule automated backups, verify copies of files for accuracy to avoid loss or corruption, and keep copies of different file versions. You can also add your own retention policies.
CrashPlan offers unlimited storage space and also provides automated reports and a web-based dashboard to view the real-time status of backups. Security features in CrashPlan include data encryption, data recovery to the latest version, and HIPAA compliance.
GoodSync is a file backup and synchronization solution that supports real-time automated replication of data. It uses incremental backup techniques and verifies file copying by comparing entire file bodies to reduce errors.
Other features include version control, reporting, filters to include or exclude specific files from synchronization, and file restoration. GoodSync also automatically resolves any conflicts between different data versions and ensure parallel workflows work in sync.
The software’s security capabilities include AES-256 bit encryption, user-access permissions, and bandwidth throttling to ensure better network performance.
As we’ve learned here, data archiving and data backup software share some similar features but are different in the objectives they help to meet.
Data backup software maintains a copy of your data while archiving software moves original, older data to a different storage space.
Data backup software helps in data recovery; archiving software helps meet regulatory compliance
The focus of backup software is on the speed of copying and recovery and on ensuring data integrity (no errors in copied data), while archiving software focuses on ensuring data searchability and authenticity.
Data archiving and data backup software are mutually exclusive and serve different purposes.
If you’re a startup or a very small business in its early stages of operation, you should start with an investment in data backup software. As your data volume grows, you can add an archiving solution as well to free up your storage space and keep a record of historical data.
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Applications highlighted in this article are selected based on several criteria: the current market definition for the category, the highest average overall ratings, and business size.
As part of our formal research efforts, a series of market definitions are developed and leveraged across all of our content for that category. These definitions determine an application's suitability for the category under analysis. If a formal market definition is not yet created, the individual analyst uses his/her market experience and knowledge to assess an application's suitability for the category.
After suitability is established, the applications are analyzed against GetApp's Category Leader ranking for that category of software; this ranking includes user reviews, integrations, mobile app availability, media presence, and security features. Where a Category Leader ranking does not exist, individual apps are chosen based on the highest average overall ratings and market suitability, based on the features it offers.
Lastly, applications are then filtered for business size using GetApp's filtering tool to include options that are suitable for businesses ranging from 0 to 500 employees.
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