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back to article Spot the joints: You say backup, I say archiving

If you have ever been asked to recover an old, lost or deleted file, you will know just how hard people find it to tell the difference between backup and archiving. The administrator's workload has grown so much that backup companies have even added user self-service portals to ease it. The problem has accentuated as companies …

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Just like backup {not equal to} recovery

In the same way that backup and archiving are becoming distinctly different, so is recovery. Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) vendors really need to be looked at differently if the goal is recovery as opposed to backup.

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Backup/Archive

A lot of the confusion in this area can be removed by considering the data rather then the machinery used to store it. Marketing managers like those quoted in the article tend to qualify data by the product used to store it, or just by the product they wish you were using to store it, often kit that they are finding difficult to shift.

Existing backups can go a long way to supporting both archives and backups, but it requires the business to make decisions about how different data sets are to be treated. Unfortunately, many managers are barely aware of the significance of usage patterns, churn rates etc. If they had the awareness they would be less likely to buy into a business / backup model that proves poor in the long run.

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FAIL

Fail

I don't believe I've ever disagreed quite so strongly with a Reg article before, with what both BB and the marketing droid have said.

Simply put, a backup is a copy of current data whereas an archive holds historical data i.e. old versions of current data and deleted data that is no longer present in the current data.

And furthermore, if you can't easily and reliably identify and retrieve any particular item from a backup or an archive then you don't actually have either; simply putting a copy of something somewhere, with no means of identifying and retrieving it is equivalent to deleting it.

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Ambiguous marketing fluff

Terms like 'archive' are ambiguous so it's best to adequately clarify exactly what you are talking about. This article seems to use the term to mean several different things at different points and indeed simultaneously. I say seems because the marketing-speak quoted throughout is somewhat sales-y and vague.

What I have found when discussing this topic with clients (internal or external) is that labels like 'backup', 'archive', 'disaster recovery', 'nearline', 'hot', 'cold', etc... are all a distraction. For me, the place to start from and that must be always kept as you guide throughout any implementation/management/review cycle is what are you trying to achieve?

Saving money is great but must take a back seat to ensuring you have a system that actually does what you need.

For example, if the requirement you are trying to fulfill is to meet the obligations of a particular tender, that specifies that data from the client must be kept segregated from other client data - both while live and 'backed-up' - with monthly point-in-time copies to be stored in an off-line format (i.e. unconnected to any external or internal network whatsoever) at a nominated, 3rd-party off-site storage service then that requires a different approach and solution than "we need to keep 7 years of payroll data".

Both these situations call for what would be termed an 'archive' but both are quite different.

As with everything, the key to assessing different solutions is to have a clear, well-defined idea of what you are trying to achieve.

That is just common sense; the important point is that labeling those goals with terms like 'backup' and 'archive' make them less clear and lesswell-defined.

Marketing teams love such labels for precisely the same reason.

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