Backup versus archiving

Storage use is growing exponentially and many organisations go for a quick hardware fix, says IDC

New Zealand IT managers are not alone in their lack of understanding of the difference between backup and archiving.

A recent survey by the Enterprise Content Management Association of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) indicates storage consumers are basically ignorant when it comes to archiving.

“Most organisations confuse email backup — being able to reconstruct a system from a specific point in time in the event of a failure — with email archiving,” the report says. “Email archiving points to the need to identify what needs to be saved, why it needs to be saved, and putting in place the technology resources necessary to archive email and be able to reproduce it in the event of an inquiry or litigation.”

Of 1,000 organisations surveyed, 45.9% considered email archiving the responsibility of individual employees; 25.5% considered it part of an overall information management strategy and 8.4% saw it as a stand-alone application.

AIIM’s report on the survey says most organisations consider archiving as a collection of massive .pst backup files.

A July report in Byte and Switch Insider also addressed the fact that organisations confuse archiving and backup. According to the report, backup involves making point-in-time copies of data to protect against hardware failures or catastrophic data loss and includes operating systems as well as applications.

Archiving, the report says, requires fast file-level access to data and should involve search and retrieval software and indexed repositories. Whereas backup volumes are usually kept for days before being replaced by new volumes, archived files can be kept for decades.

In other words, archiving applies to data that is likely to be needed again and logically placing information where it can be easily found and retrieved. Backup creates a mirrored copy of data, a reserve resource should something happen to the original data. Retrieval is a slower, more cumbersome process, with the additional cost of storage involved.

Backup is for recovery, archiving for preservation and retrieval. Backup is short term and data can be periodically overwritten; archiving is long term and unalterable and thus used for compliance.

A report last month from research firm TheInfoPro shows installed storage capacity at Fortune 1,000 companies continues to double every ten months, taking up more than 15% of the total datacentre budget at nearly half of them. It’s thought that for some companies, redundant data amounts to more than half of what is stored.

Graham Penn, Asia Pacific vice president of storage at research company IDC, says storage use is growing exponentially and many organisations go for a quick hardware fix.

“Is it possible that CIOs are under a misconception that digital archive and retrieval systems cannot handle the amount and types of data produced by organisations?” he recently asked in Computerworld Australia. “If so, it’s a serious misconception. In fact, many companies and government departments have built archives capable of capturing all digital content, including emails, and have saved significant costs through more efficient data management.

“IT decision makers should investigate these space-saving alternatives, which can deliver other benefits such as compliance management.”

The best-known email archiving product in NZ is probably Aftermail, bought earlier this year by US software vendor Quest. Aftermail had around 370 customers at the time.

Archiving is applicable to much more than email but, according to Palintir Systems principal Alan Osborne — Palintir distributes archiving software for Princeton Softech — it is only the financial sector that has, to date, got its collective head around the differences between archiving and backup.

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