What’s the Diff: Backup vs Archive

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

It’s important to understand the difference between the two to ensure that your data storage methodology meets your needs in a number of key areas:

  1. Retained for the period of time you require.

  2. Protected from loss or unauthorized access.

  3. Able to be restored or retrieved when needed.

  4. Structured or tagged to enable locating specific data.

  5. Kept current according to your requirements.

Our two choices can be broadly categorized:

  • Backup is for recovery from hardware failure or recent data corruption or loss

  • Archive is for space management and long term retention

What Is a Backup?

A backup is a copy of your data that is made to protect against loss of that data. Typically, backups are made on a regular basis according to a time schedule or when the original data changes. The original data is not deleted, but older backups are often deleted in favor of newer backups. The goal of a backup is to make a copy of anything in current use that can’t afford to be lost.

In the case of a ransomware attack ransomware attack, a solid backup strategy can mean the difference between being able to restore a compromised system and having to pay a ransom in the vague hopes of getting a decryption key to obtain access to files that are no longer available because they were encrypted by the attacker.

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What Is an Archive?

An archive is a copy of data made for long-term storage and reference. The original data may or may not be deleted from the source system after the archive copy is made and stored, though it is common for the archive to be the only copy of the data.

Archives are often created based on the age of the data or whether the project the data belongs to is still active. An archiving program might send data to an archive if it hasn’t been accessed in a specified amount of time, when it has reached a certain age, if a person is no longer with the organization, or the files have been marked for storage because the project has been completed or closed.

What’s the Difference Between Restore and Retrieve?

If you want to restore something from a backup, it usually is a single file, a server, or structured data such as a database that needs to be restored to a specific point in time. You need to know a lot about the data, such as where it was located when it was backed up, the database or folder it was in, the name of the file, when it was backed up, and so forth.


When you retrieve data from an archive, the data is connected in some manner, such as date, email recipient, period of time, or other set of parameters that can be specified in a search. A typical retrieval query might be to obtain all files related to a project name, or all emails sent by a person during a specific period of time.


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