Difference Between Backing Up and Archiving

Main Difference – Backing Up vs Archiving

Backing up and archiving are two common terms related to data storage. The key difference between backing up and archiving is that data backups are designed for rapid recovery of data while data archiving stores data that is not used in day to day operations but still needs to be retained.

This article explores,

1. What is Backing Up
      – Objectives, Purpose, Format, Storage
2. What is Archiving
      – Objectives, Purpose, Format, Storage
3. What is the difference between Backing Up and Archiving

Difference Between Backing Up and Archiving - Comparison Summary

What is Backing Up

Backing up is mainly done in order to preserve virtual files, databases and physical files onto a secondary storage medium in the case of equipment failure or other catastrophes. The backing up process is essential if you are to perform a disaster recovery plan or DR.

Other unforeseen events like hardware failure, data corruption, buggy software, malicious software, and errors make enterprise backups an important feature. Backup needs to be reliable, rapid and, data retrieval should be done when the need arises. The process that is used to retrieve backed up information is known as file restoration.

The backup process is an essential part of any critical databases and business processes. The backup process is governed by policies that will specify the frequency of data backups and the number of replicas that need to be made. Service level agreement will also specify how quickly the backup data needs to be restored. Best practices indicate that backups should be done at least once a week for businesses.

In addition to full backups, differential and incremental backups take place to backup data that has changed after the full backup has taken place. Enterprises usually use dedicated backup appliances or magnetic tape systems for this process to take place. Data duplication systems will comprise of hard disk drives and software with backup policies. Disk to disk backup was used as an alternative to magnetic backup tape drives. Even today both disk and tape drives are used sometimes in conjunction.

For long-term retention of data, disk-based backups are moved to magnetic tape. Magnetic tapes are still used today due to increasing densities. Solid state devices are not used for data backup due to the problems in endurance. Although modern primary storage systems have evolved greatly in the recent past, primary storage is expensive and lacks indexing capabilities that are found in traditional backup devices.

Main Difference - Backing Up vs Archiving

Figure 1: IBM 729V Magnetic Tape

What is Archiving

Archiving is the process in which inactive information is securely stored for long periods of time. This process includes identifying and moving data that is not active. Inactive data is moved out of the current production systems and placed in specialized long-term storage systems. Moving inactive data will optimize the system. Archiving will increase the performance of the system and release resource for further utilization. Archived data can be stored on different devices on a variety of formats. Businesses tend to archive entire file collections. Specialized archival systems are available to store information in a cost-effective manner, while they can also retrieve such information when needed.

From an organizational point of view, data archiving is essential when the accumulation of information takes place, and when the need arises to retain old information. Longer retention of information and faster retrieval of it are corporate trends of cooperate policy legal precedent and law and regulations of the government.

Achieved data will consist of old data which is still important to an organization. The archived data may be needed for future reference and for regulatory compliances. Data archives are usually indexed for easy location and retrieval.

Some data archives are read-only protected so as to protect the data from modifications. Other data can be archived as read-writes according to need. Data archiving is mainly done for document files, emails, databases for regulatory and operation purposes.

The foremost benefit of data archiving is the cost reduction on primary storage. Primary storage is usually expensive while archive storage is less expensive due to its low performance and can act as a high storage medium. Archiving storage reduces the amount of data that needs to be backed up. Infrequent data removal from the backup increases backup performance restores performance and lowers the storage cost.

Difference Between Backing Up and Archiving

Figure 2: Video Tape Archive

Difference Between Backing Up and Archiving


Backing up: Backups are designed for rapid recovery of operational data.

Archiving: Archives are created for data retention.


Backing up: Backups are intended for quick recovery of data that may be caused by corruption and accidental deletion and full disaster recovery scenarios.

Archiving: Data arching creates a repository of data that can be retrieved at a later data.


Backing up: Backups are fast, since speed is important.

Archiving: Data archiving is not concerned with the speed of restoration.

Search Ability

Backing up: Backup recovery of data is important. Usually, the location of the data that is needed will be known and easy to find.

Archiving: In data archiving search ability is of importance. Metadata indexes and keywords need to be used in order to rapidly search for files and folders.

Data Format

Backing up: Backup use proprietary formats, making long-term retention a problem.

Archiving: In data archiving native formats are used to make long-term retention an ease.

Storage Media

Backing up: Backups can be done on standard media like DVDs and HDDs.

Archiving: Archiving will use magnetic tape as a storage media. Spinning disks are used but they have few drawbacks.


Data archives, at most times, are confused with data backups. Backups are copies of data. Data backups are created so that data recovery can be used as a data recovery mechanism. Backups will be useful when data is corrupted or destroyed. Data archives help in protecting older information that is not needed for everyday operations but may be needed to be accessed occasionally. This will help in reducing storage consumption and costs that may be related to it.

Image Courtesy:
1. “Ibm-729v”By No machine-readTheSentinel64 (based on copyright claims). Own work (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia
2.”Video tape archive (6498650083)”- DRs Kulturarvsprojekt from Copenhagen, Danmark – Video tape archive Uploaded by palnatoke (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Reginald

Reginald has a BEng (Hons) degree in Electronics Engineering and has great passion for writing. He has been a freelance writer for over two years. His interests include electronic gadgets, smartphones and cameras, software, programming, and networking. He is also a detail
oriented person who is in the lookout for new trends and developments in technology.

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