Despite the rapid advance of platforms like Slack or Zoom, email remains the backbone of today’s business communication, with every bit of critical information going through the company’s email system sooner or later.
It is because of this continual reliance on email that both email archiving and email backup have become critical for business continuity, but the story gets much more complicated for organizations that need to meet compliance requirements and be prepared for ediscovery.
While email archiving and backup are two related business practices, there’s still confusion regarding the differences between backup vs. archive. So here are the two concepts spelled out.
What is the difference between email archiving and backup?
Email backup is the simpler and sometimes less effective of the two options for managing and enabling access to data from the past. Backup, be it for emails, social media data or other unstructured information, focuses on taking a snapshot of data at a predetermined time.
This type of data backup is used to protect against widespread or catastrophic failure of company or cloud servers. While you may lose some current or recent information between backups, this process saves the most relevant data.
Backups can replace critical data lost due to errors, mechanical and operational issues, but the process doesn’t organize or index the information. This lack of searchability makes backups less useful for protecting unstructured business data.
The most immediately recognizable difference between email backup and email archiving is that archiving occurs on an item-by-item basis. Instead of a periodic, system-wide backup to prevent the loss of current information, archiving happens in real time. Archiving captures, indexes and secures each electronic record individually in a protected storage space.
To be truly effective on a consistent basis, archiving has to automatically capture the totality of outbound and inbound email data and send it to a secure server. Additionally, archiving saves all the components of the information, from complete metadata to attachments, photos, videos, documents and other media attached to an email, social network post, instant message or other collaborative applications.
It’s important to note that email archiving offers instant, searchable and organized access to the information stored. This is crucial for the many situations when businesses need specific pieces of information, as opposed to a date-based archive of all transmissions.
Email archiving is designed for large-scale data retention, regulatory compliance and ediscovery purposes. It indexes and stores your emails securely while enabling quick access and searchability of your email and other critical communications. All emails are stored in their original, WORM-compliant format and cannot be altered. This means that email archiving ensures that your organization operates fully in line with all the relevant compliance laws.
Framing the difference
The simplest way to settle the uncertainty about email archiving vs. backup is to remember this distinction – Archiving fills the same role as a backup but with a greater degree of searchability and organization for users.
The same can’t be said for backups, which serve their own specific purposes but don’t provide the end-to-end searchability and indexed storage.
The main differences are:
- Email backup does not meet regulatory requirements
- Email backup does not resolve your compliance needs
- Email backup is designed to accommodate disaster recovery
- There are more features in email archiving solutions: Advanced Search, customizable retention windows (including indefinite retention), legal hold and audit trail etc.
Data archiving vs. backup: more benefits of archiving
1. Email archiving reduces the strain on your email servers
Because email archiving takes all your email and electronically stored information off your email servers, it frees up space on your servers, significantly increasing your systems’ efficiency and performance.
2. Email archiving reduces your storage costs
Recovering files from an email server or backup can be an extremely time consuming and costly experience. With email archiving all email and ESI is readily available at all times, while the data that is no longer needed for compliance purposes can be set for automated deletion. This will reduce the total cost of data storage and minimize the time spent on recovery.
3. Email archiving improves staff productivity
Email archiving solutions can be set up to allow end users the access to personal email by assigning them with various access permissions and by defining user roles in the organization. By allowing this, end users can recover their deleted or misplaced emails independently, with no additional IT resources required. Contrary to this, email backup solutions are controlled and accessed by IT administrators only.
Should you back up your email archive too?
his depends on whether you’re using an on-premise email archiving solution or opt for a cloud platform for email archiving. Here’s what you need to know about archive backup with archiving appliances.
A solid archiving appliance is made with server grade hardware and is built to endure continual use and the heavy workload of enterprises. With components such as server grade chipsets, the error-proof ECC RAM, resistant SAS hard drives, RAID array and redundant power supply, you’re pretty much covered.
RAID arrays are used to distribute data across the drives so that you can still retrieve your data from the remaining drives in case one or more storage units fail. A redundant power supply contains two or more power units, so if one of them fails, the other can seamlessly take over and keep the appliance going. In other words, your archiving device should be built in such a way that the possibility of disaster is reduced to a minimum.
But what should you do in an unlikely, but catastrophic event such as a fire or a sudden power outage? Does your email archive need backup? The short answer is yes, and here’s how to back up archived emails:
Your email archive should undergo full backup after the initial ingestion of data. This will create a snapshot of your entire archive. It’s typically not performed very often as it is time-consuming and requires a lot of storage space.
After the initial backup, your archiving appliance will automatically copy the data that has changed since the last backup operation. This is called incremental backup, and it is used to make sure you always have the latest image of your messages on your backup server. It’s very easy to back up the appliance using NFS.
You should specify the intervals in which you want backup to be performed (e.g. hourly or daily) and then the messages that came in since the last backup will be copied to a backup drive in a single binary file. This allows data to be sent and restored much faster and prevents potential network issues which could come up if you copied millions of files separately.
If the appliance becomes unresponsive for any reason, your data will still be completely safe. It will be kept on your email server in accordance with the local retention policy. For instance, Exchange allows up to 72 hours by default. This is more than enough time to safely redirect journaling to a local mailbox and resolve the problem with the archiver.
The modern way to handle email backup is in the cloud, mostly because it’s more cost-effective and scalable enough to meet the different needs. As an alternative, you can also have external storage devices or on-premise backup.
In conclusion, we advise the deployment of both solutions – the email archiving solution will ensure ongoing, tamper-proof and long-term retention of all email communications and allow you to actively use it for search, compliance and ediscovery. Email backup, on the other hand, will provide an additional layer of data protection and might come in handy in disaster recovery.
Now that you know the difference between email archiving and email backup, you can begin to fully protect your organization. Jatheon provides cloud and on-premise email, social media, WhatsApp and text message archiving solutions with optional cloud backup and disaster recovery plans.