Difference Between Backup and Archive

The process of creating lots of data is common all the small and large businesses around the world. It is estimated that the amount of data are doubled by some companies each year. The biggest challenge the companies have with this rapid growth of data is the reliable protection of data. Data should be protected from accidental deletions to natural disasters. Backup and archive are two of the most popular methods of data protection and retention used by companies today.


Backup technology deals with making and keeping copies of data (files, databases, etc.) for protection against data loss due to human mistakes, system malfunction and natural disasters. Retrieval of backed up data is called restoring. Backing up is suitable for recovering large amounts of data in quick time. However, backup infrastructure needs to be extended very fast due to the rapid growth of data, giving headaches for the administrators. Today, both tapes and disks are used as mediums for backup, which makes it highly reliable. Typically, companies obtain nightly incremental and weekly full backups and keep the backups at least for three months. But, if backup systems are not used with proper data management software, it can become very inefficient and ineffective. If the company decides to keep the data for a longer period, the cost, time and number of personal dedicated for the backup system could increase very quickly. Personal computer users can backup using local backup systems or internet backup services.


File archiving is another popular form of data protection and retention used heavily today. An archiving system packages a collection of computer files for backup. Actually, archiving is used along with backup to reduce the costs. A file archiving system will copy data depending on the content of the files. And similar logic applies to the recovery of data. These content attributes could be author, modified date or some other customized tags. Initially, the system will discover all files in the system along with their metadata and content. Archiving system is usually content-aware. Furthermore, it should populate metadata based on the content and should allow the user to access the data very quickly. Some archiving systems provide compression as well. WinZip and Tar are two of the popular archiving systems on Windows and UNIX, respectively.

What is the difference between Backup and Archive?

Backup and archiving systems have two different purposes. Yet, they should be used together to achieve effective data protection and retention. Backup is used to keep copies of data for data protection purposes, while archiving is done as a means of data management for keeping the data organized for a long-term. In other words, a backup can be considered as a short-term copy, whereas an archive can be regarded as a means to retain a file for a longer lifespan. In real life situations, you usually do not delete the original copy after backing up. However, once a file is archived, the original file may be deleted, because accessing it immediately is not required anymore. But, it is important to note that backup is effective when used with archiving. Similarly, archiving systems can get help from backup systems to strengthen the data protection. These two systems complement each other well.