We already have a backup. Why do we need an archive?
When it comes to data protection and business continuity, everyone is taking a closer look at their data protection framework. But we field this question about data backup vs archiving so often it’s worth reviewing: because both have an important role to play in business continuity and data loss prevention.
Understanding the primary use case for each is key.
A backup’s primary job is to speed up the restoration of an entire server’s (or collection of servers’) operating systems, configurations and data. When necessary, a large data set can be restored as quickly as possible, with as little data loss as possible. That has always been the backup’s use case. It was never intended to be a searchable data repository.
Archiving platforms are designed to make it possible to find & produce specific communications, files and content. This is a process known as e-Discovery. In simple terms, it means searching for very specific emails, files, and other electronic records in response to any number of triggers. However, in order for data to be searchable with any reliability. the data must be organized. In technology parlance, we call that indexing. Just search engines have to crawl the internet to locate and organize content, the same is true of data generated from applications. Archives index, organize and manage data for e-Discovery, workflows, reviews and secure production with chain of custody detail.
Point in time snapshots vs. continuous updates.
A backup provides a snapshot of the configuration, settings and data as they existed at a single point in time. That’s because a backup typically needs files to be closed/inactive to make a copy. This is why backups are typically timed to occur after working hours. A true archiving platform is capturing data (new and revisions) continuously. The moment a record is saved on the primary system it is also archived, therefore all content is preserved.
Short term data backup vs. extended retention.
Data backups commonly follow an industry standard snapshot profile that preserves data on daily snapshots that are supplemented with a weekly, monthly and quarterly snapshot. Those snapshots overwrite each other, and the most valuable are the daily snapshots. If you can restore from yesterday’s backup, you’ve only lost one day’s data. Which can still be very costly.
An archive, on the other hand, captures and retains data for extended periods, usually years with option for open ended retention holds for legal needs. Most importantly, archived data is retained in its original state and is retained and managed automatically until it reaches the end of its allowed lifecycle.
Data Access: two very different approaches.
Backup software does not segregate data access permissions to the backup data. Because the use case for data backup is for rapid restoration, these systems were not engineered with the expectation that anyone would be interrogating the data. Therefore if someone has been granted rights to the backup system, they have access to all the data. Is it easy to look through specific data sets? Often no. But it is relatively easy for any IT personnel with backup administrator access to access an email box and its contents. All without an audit trail to know that someone has reviewed the CEO’s email. In today’s environment where data security and data privacy are significant areas of priority, it’s worth remembering that a data backup does have known security limitations.
Now contrast the accessibility of a data backup system with that of an archiving platform like Donoma OneVault. Access to data is carefully controlled with data access partitioned based on role and or access to very specific data sets. (Such as are needed for an audit, a FOIA or similar regulatory request, or for legal discovery.) A good archiving system ensures much more granular security and provides a “chain of custody” style audit trail on activity.
Backup schedules vs. Information Governance
Backups policies are set for the entire organization’s data set. There is too much complexity to set up differing backup schedules by department, employee, or even data grouping. A good archiving solution like OneVault provides Information Governance for your data. This means the availability of customizable retention policies by department, person, project or other custom data parameters including litigation holds and other overlapping retention schedules. Information governance enables your organization to know what data you have, who has access, when it is scheduled to expire, and then makes sure that data is securely deleted at the end of its designated retention period.
Stronger Data Security: WORM vs. Encryption
There are additional steps organizations can take to further secure their data. Write Once Read Many (WORM) is the original concept behind writing backup data years ago to DVD media. You could access the data backup, but you could not change the data. As more organizations moved into cloud backup, WORM became less common. Increasingly, Backup services like our FLxStore Backup as a Service are starting to again promote and offer WORM options. But WORM will not help much if a ransomware hacker gains access to your backup data.
However, encryption of your data provides much stronger data security and protection in the event of a hack, ransom or other exfiltration attempt. An archive solution that provides end-to-end encryption ensures much greater security. If the data were to fall into the wrong hands, it would be useless without its encryption key located separately. Ransom attacks were built to exploit the limitations of data backup. It’s much easier, more predictable and relies on standard ransomware code sets that are bought and sold on the web. Ransomware attackers don’t want to innovate, they want to plan their attack and execute, get paid and move on. (See Ransomware: Why Traditional backups Aren’t the Answer Anymore)
So which is it? Data backup or Data archive?
Increasingly, it’s both. As we have discussed, each of these platforms serve a specific purpose, and both are part of our “Full Circle Resliency Framework”.
Backup, particularly a hybrid solution with distributed copies into the cloud are the initial line of defense, ready for rapid restoration. DR & Failover leverages the cloud backup into standby cloud compute resources to maintain operations. Cybersecurity is a multifaceted aspect of any IT organization and increasingly, data archiving completes the protection strategy. As organizations recognize the security, speed and usefulness of an archiving platform, they see more benefits for business continuity & operational resilience.
To learn more about how we can help your organization address its business continuity needs, schedule a conversation and demo today!
- Is Backup as a Service the Solution You Should be Adopting?
- Information Governance Best Practices to Strengthen Cyber Security
- Ransomware: Why Traditional backups Aren’t the Answer Anymore
- FLxStore Backup as a Service
- OneVault Information Governance Platform
- Want to run OneVault as a self-hosted archiving & DLP solution? Now you can!
- OneVault archiving now expanded to Microsoft Teams, Zoom & Webex
- Beyond Compliance: The Dawn of Agile Data Retention