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Backup Vs Archive: What’s the Difference?

backup vs archive : what's the difference pros and cons backup and archival
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Backup and archive are often used interchangeably, and why shouldn’t they? Aren’t they just synonymous? Not if these 3 aspects matter to your org – data recovery, regulatory implications, and business continuity. We examine the backup vs archive dilemma by examining the role and impact of backup and archiving when mapped to these crucial aspects.

Snapshot: Backup Vs Archive

AttributeBackupArchive
Data RecoveryEasier, faster and more cost-effective way to restore to a previous point in time. A requirement for quick disaster recovery.Sub-optimal RTO (time to recover) and RPO (data you're OK with losing). However, as archives take up less space they can be used for long-term retention.
Regulatory ImplicationsDepends on the industry. With increasing breaches, many laws such as the GDPR mandate timely recoverability and data protection; only possible with backup.Archives are required for legal purposes and retention policies as a long-term repository of corporate knowledge and historical data.
Business ContinuityBackup is a must for seamless business continuity. Secure and reliable backup blunts the impact of a breach by minimizing downtime with quick data recovery.Email and file archival can work alongside backup to reduce the volume of data on the email server, leading to a faster recovery.

#1 Data Recovery: Archival Vs Backup

Data recovery is central to cybersecurity. Archives and backups have varied influences on the ease and cost of data recovery, as well as the RPO and RTO.

Ease of Data Recovery

Backup is a critical aspect of Disaster Recovery being the main way to recover data. It is quicker and easier to retrieve data from as a backup as it holds the more recent and accurate version of data. This is especially true of the 3-2-1 rule of backup is followed: have 3 or more copies of data, stored on 3 different media types with at least 1 copy should be kept offsite/on the cloud.

Archival, on the other hand, can be time-consuming as you first need to locate the archived data before beginning the retrieval process.

Cost of Data Recovery

Backup systems are less expensive compared to archive solutions since they require lower capacity and use less complex technologies.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

RTO is a measure of how long it will take you to return to normal operations after an information loss. Calculating your RTO entails determining how much time you’re willing to lose and how significant the disruption would be on your productivity. The RTO varies dramatically based on the sector and the cost of missed business opportunities.

Backup data is typically recoverable in a shorter time frame than archived data. Backup is a near-instantaneous process while archival can take days or weeks. If you have ever had to wait for a tape to be brought back from offsite storage, you know this firsthand. This timeline difference matters because backup is designed for recent data that you

Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

The recovery point objective (RPO) is the maximum amount of data that you can tolerate losing in a disaster. Another way to think about it is how much time passes between your last data backup/archival and a data loss without causing major harm to your business. It’s important for determining the cadence required and consequently whether backup or archival is a better fit.

Backup captures a finite set of data at regular intervals while archive is designed to hang onto everything until it’s no longer needed.

#2 Regulatory Implications: Backup Vs Archive

The regulatory environment is constantly changing, which can make it difficult to keep up with the latest compliance requirements. Backup and archival have two sets of compliance implications:

Is is a Regulatory Requirement to Backup and/or Archive?

The answer to this question depends on the industry. Some industries have specific compliance regulations that require businesses to archive data, while others only require backup. It’s important to consult with an attorney or compliance specialist to determine what regulations apply to your specific business. It is widely assumed that archiving is a must to meet regulatory requirements and retention policies for industries processing “sensitive” data such as financial, government, and healthcare. However, with the rise in breaches, regulatory laws are increasingly mandating “timely recoverability”, which is only possible with backup. For instance, Article 32 of the GDPR states that data controllers should have “the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident.”

What Regulatory Requirements do your Backup and/or Archive have to Comply with?

Backup data is typically subject to the same compliance regulations as live data. This means that if your backup data is subject to certain regulations (e.g., HIPAA, PCI), you must take steps to ensure that this data is properly secured and encrypted.

Archived data may be subject to different compliance regulations than live or backup data. For example, archived email messages may be subject to the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). As a result, it’s important to understand the compliance requirements for your specific industry and ensure that your archival system is properly configured to meet these requirements.

#3 Business Continuity: Backup or Archive?

The ability to maintain mission-critical services in the event of a disaster is known as business continuity. Business continuity planning is required to get your operations back up and running as quickly and easily as possible after a breach or incident.

In the event of a disaster, it’s important to have a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan (BC/DR) in place to ensure that your business can continue operating. Backup and archival each play a role in business continuity, but they serve different purposes.

Backup data can be used to restore lost or corrupted data so that you can continue working with minimal interruption. Thus ensuring seamless business continuity. For example, if you accidentally delete a critical file, you can restore this file from backup and pick up where you left off.

Archived data can also be used to recreate lost or corrupted data, but doing so is cumbersome, time-consuming and restores lapsed data that may be irrelevant. Access is often strictly controlled by privileged admins and the legal team, and recreating lost data with archives cannot be done by basic admins or end users – thus delaying the time taken to recover missing data.

Which to Choose – Backup Vs Archive? You Need Both.

As we can see from the pros and cons above, both backup and archiving serve different but essential business purposes. Backups are used to recover from hardware failure or data loss caused by malware, human error, ransomware, hardware issues, and/or data corruption. Archiving is used to manage space, comply with regulations, be risk averse, and preserve data for long periods of time.

CloudAlly pioneered cloud-to-cloud backup a decade ago, and our solution is robust, proven, and top-rated. With one single solution get comprehensive, end-to-end protection of all your SaaS data –  Microsoft 365Google WorkspaceSalesforce, Dropbox, and Box. All of our data is kept in Amazon S3 immutable storage and encrypted using strong AES-256 bit encryption methods. Our backups are stringently secure, compliant with GDPR and HIPAA, and provide unlimited retention. Thus you get quick data recovery, can meet regulatory requirements, and are ensured of seamless business continuity.

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