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Backup, archiving and records management – different solutions for different challenges

February 11, 2014 • Opinion, Southern Africa

Gareth Tudor, CEO of Altonet. (Image source: Altonet)

Gareth Tudor, CEO of Altonet. (Image source: Altonet)

There is no doubt that data management and preservation are critically important to business. However, there may be misconceptions when it comes to the process around the differences between backup, archiving and records management.

While all three are important, depending on the size of the organisation, they are not the same thing, and nor can they typically be handled by the same technology. Each of these data challenges requires a specific solution to perform specific functions, ensuring that data is not only available and preserved, but also easily managed.

Data backup is essential for everyday operations. This process in essence creates a copy of current data and stores it in another location. For example, should a set of data go missing or become corrupt, or a notebook or desktop is lost, stolen or fails, this information can be restored exactly as it was from the last backup. A backup is a working file that includes all of the data, as well as how it was arranged and stored on an on-going working basis.  It can be stored on an external hard drive, a storage server, in the cloud, or a combination of these tools. Backups can be performed manually, but a more efficient process is to make use of a solution that automates this process and backs up data incrementally, so that there is always one copy of the most current information available to be restored. This also reduces the time taken to backup data significantly.

Archiving, on the other hand, consists of static information as opposed to a working file – a repository of old information that is not required on a daily, on-going basis. Archives cannot be used to restore a machine that has failed, but are used to find a particular file for a particular purpose. Examples of this include emails older than a certain date, as well as records and customer data that needs to be retained, but is not accessed regularly.

Data often needs to be retained for compliance and eDiscovery purposes – many industries are required to keep five years of financial data, for example, in the event that authorities require an audit.  Another example is the healthcare sector must keep patient records for up to 20 years. This information does not necessarily have to be easily retrievable, but must be accessible if necessary, and maintaining all of this data in tier-one storage such as a backup is expensive and unnecessary. This is where archiving solutions come in and this older data is usually stored on less expensive media.

Many organisations require both backup and archiving, which typically cannot be accomplished using the same tool. However, they need to work together to ensure efficiency. For large organisations where data volumes are high and data is stored in a variety of different formats, records management may be an essential supplementary tool.

Records management helps enterprises to organise, manage, and govern records of all types, including physical files, electronic documents, and emails. Records management solutions are essentially governance solutions for capturing, classifying, tracking, scheduling, and managing media of all types, and assist with minimising risk.

When faced with managing data, many organisations may be the impression that an all-encompassing system for backup, archiving and records management is the most efficient solution. However, with the sheer volume and variety of data, from paper to electronic records, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, records retention, archiving, email and more, these cannot efficiently be tackled as a single project, as the objectives and outcomes of backup, archiving and records management, while similar, are not identical. When looking to implement data management solutions, it is essential for organisations to first analyse their requirements before taking the decision as to whether they require backup, archiving or records management, or a combination of these tools, or even all three.

Gareth Tudor, CEO of Altonet

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