There are many reasons to archive data━to meet compliance regulations, to retain historical data, or simply to save resources. Archiving preserves data long term so that it can be retrieved when necessary. This article covers how archiving can benefit your business and explains some important factors to consider when creating an archival strategy.
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What Is a Data Archive?
A data archive is a place to store data that is important but that doesn’t need to be accessed or modified frequently (if at all). Most businesses use data archives for legacy data or data that they are required to keep in order to meet regulatory standards like HIPAA, PCI-DSS or GDPR.
Archive vs Backup
Archives and backups are not the same, even though they are both used to store data outside of production, and you should use them for different purposes.
Data backups are a safeguard for data that is currently in use, which allows you to restore lost or corrupted data from a single point in time. They store data as it existed in the original file, server, or database, including location information, and are not indexed. To restore data, you need to know which backup has the version you need and where the data is stored in that backup.
Data archives store data that is not currently being used and allow you to retrieve data across a period of time based on search parameters. They store data in an indexed fashion, through the use of metadata, independent of how it may have been originally stored during active use. To retrieve data, you need to know the search parameters, such as origin, author or file contents.
While some businesses try to use backups as archives, it is not advisable. Since backups are usually images of the full system, it can be very difficult to single out specific files for long-term retention. This essentially requires keeping the entire backup as an archive, increasing the resources needed for storage and making it difficult to retrieve specific records when they are required in the future.
Benefits of Data Archiving
The primary benefits of archiving data are:
- Reduced cost━data is typically stored on low performance, high capacity media with lower associated maintenance and operation costs
- Better backup and restore performance━archiving removes data from backups, reducing their size and eliminating restoration of unnecessary files
- Prevention of data loss━archiving reduces the ability to modify data, preventing data loss
- Increased security━archiving removes documents from circulation, limiting the chance of cyberattack or malware infection
- Regulatory compliance━built-in policies ensure records are kept for an appropriate amount of timeand indexing makes data more retrievable
Top Considerations Before Archiving Data
There are a few things to consider when creating a successful archive strategy.
The type of storage you choose plays a big role in how accessible your data is, how much your archive costs to create and store, and how safe your data is once it’s archived. An archive is only useful if you are able to retrieve data when you need it, so it’s important to periodically verify that the storage you select continues to be functional.
If tapes are demagnetized or current technologies no longer support archived file types, your efforts will have been wasted. When choosing a storage type, keep in mind how long you need to store data for, how much data you need to store, and what your priorities are in terms of storage or transfer. This includes deciding whether you want to store data on or offline:
- Online storage━storing your archive online allows you to easily access it from multiple locations and ensures that you can retrieve the data quickly. It also makes it easier to manage efficiently and add more data to it. The downside of online storage is that it increases opportunities for theft or tampering and is only accessible when you have a network connection. Private clouds can reduce your security risks but have high upfront and operating costs whereas public clouds are cheaper upfront and include built-in support and encryption but require ongoing fees for use.
- Offline storage━storing archives offline, such as with disk or tape drives, reduces the risk of theft or modification as well as maintenance and storage costs. Offline storage often has a better capacity to cost ratio but means longer retrieval times and greater barriers to managing or transferring data.
Efficient archives retain the minimum amount of data necessary in order to reduce resource use and liability as well as the amount of effort or time required to find data. It is counterproductive to archive all of your data so you must determine what data you need and for how long you need to keep it.
When deciding which data to keep, you should consider what format it’s in and whether to archive installation files for viewing applications. If you’re archiving file types that are proprietary, there’s a risk that they won’t be supported in the future when you retrieve your data but archiving their associated programs will ensure future readability.
Consider the impacts that retrieval times and methods will have on your business. Some archives can take days to retrieve data from or only support returning collections of data instead of individual parts of databases or files. If you only need a small piece of a larger archive, you likely want a cloud solution as opposed to a tape-based one.
The transparency of the solution should also be considered as requiring data users to request access through IT staff or from third-party providers will have an impact on productivity. If the data you are archiving is not truly cold but instead just infrequently accessed, transparent solutions in which data appears to be stored in its original location can reduce the impact on employees.
Archiving with Cloudian
Archiving data is a good solution for ensuring that valuable but out-of-use data is kept safe without taking up expensive resources. It might be tempting to use your backups as archives but this is likely to end up costing you more time and money in the end. To save yourself the trouble, create complementary backup and archive strategies and consider using automation tools to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
Cloudian HyperStore can help you simplify the process of archiving data and integrating the archive with your broader storage solution. It is an on-premise object storage solution that is scalable and can be integrated with cloud and third-party migration services, making it flexible to your needs and available in case of a network outage.
HyperStore is fully S3 API compliant and includes automatic data verification and encryption. With it, you can tag your data with custom metadata for intelligent search and analysis functions. You can manage stored data with bucket-level policies that determine the replication schedule and lifecycle time and create policies dictating erasure coding and replication according to data type.
This solution can help you store your data securely and efficiently, keeping it accessible to your broader storage systems while staying transparent to end users.