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What is Data Archiving?

Defining data archive, its benefits, and best practices

At its core, data archiving is about retaining data that is important but no longer needed in everyday business operations – and doing so in a way that is very cost-effective.

In practice, data archiving is the process of moving infrequently accessed data from primary storage to a secure secondary storage location for long-term retention. 

Data archiving isn’t data backup 

Some people conflate data archiving with data backup since both involve data storage and require the ability to easily access that stored dataset. While they’re both essential parts of data lifecycle management, their purposes and methods are very different. It’s important to understand how they differ. 

Data backup

Data backup addresses short-term data loss due to system failures, accidental deletions, or data corruption. Its main goal is to restore systems to a functional state as quickly as possible to maintain business continuity. To make this possible, data must be frequently backed up. This is done by creating recovery points, duplicate copies, or snapshots of current data that enable you to roll back to a previous state, which is especially critical during a disaster recovery situation.  

Data archiving

Data archiving takes a more strategic and long-term approach. Its purpose is data preservation, typically for regulatory compliance, legal, and historical data retention requirements.  To make archiving effective, organizations must continually identify data that has reached the end of its active life cycle, based on predetermined criteria such as age or frequency of access. This addresses the reality of data’s evolving status: not all information has the same level of relevance or usage throughout its life. Indexing and organizing the archived data is also part of the process since that’s what makes it easy to retrieve.  

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5 Key data archiving benefits 

Data archiving has many benefits. Here are the key advantages.

1. Cost savings 

As we all know, data volumes can easily grow exponentially over time. Storing all that data on high-performance primary storage can become prohibitively expensive. By moving less frequently accessed data to more cost-effective storage solutions, you can significantly reduce costs. Some estimates point to a savings of 63%-94% compared to the cost of storing data on a primary storage tier and backing it up.

 2. Compliance and legal requirements

Many industries are bound by regulations that mandate the retention of historical data for a specified period of time. Failure to comply can lead to severe legal consequences and costly fines. Data archiving and data lifecycle management help businesses meet these compliance requirements by securely storing and readily retrieving historical data when needed. This is crucial in fields such as healthcare (HIPAA) and finance (Sarbanes-Oxley). It’s also important for data privacy across industries (GDPR).

3. Improved Performance and Accessibility 

When you archive data onto secondary storage, you free up valuable primary storage resources like disk space and processing power. This helps ensure they’re available for current needs and is critical in situations where quick data access is a must. At the same time, by organizing and indexing archived data, you make it easy to search and access. This contributes to better historical analysis and decision-making.

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4. Risk Mitigation

Data archiving plays a key role in mitigating the risks not only associated with non-compliance but also with data loss and corruption. By keeping secure copies of older data and ensuring that it remains intact and recoverable, you can better safeguard against unexpected events.

5. Optimized Backup and Recovery

With archival solutions in place, you can more easily streamline your backup and recovery processes. Since archived data is typically static and less frequently updated, it reduces the strain on backup systems, allowing for faster and more efficient backups.

Data Archiving Best Practices 

Successful data archiving strategies require careful planning. Follow these guidelines to optimize your processes and results.

1. Define Archiving Policies

Begin by clearly defining policies that align with your organization’s specific needs and regulatory requirements. Determine what data should be archived, retention lengths, and the criteria for data eligibility. This foundational step ensures consistency and compliance throughout the archiving process.

2. Automate the Process

Use automation tools to streamline archiving. Automation reduces the likelihood of human error, ensures consistent application of archiving policies, and improves overall efficiency. Consider implementing intelligent data archiving solutions that can automatically identify, move, categorize, and tag data based on your predefined rules. For even greater efficiencies and savings, look for solutions that are integrated with backup capabilities

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3. Prioritize Security 

Archived data is a favorite target of cybercriminals. Protecting it from loss, corruption, breaches, and theft is critical. Implement robust encryption mechanisms to safeguard archived data during transit and storage. Regularly audit and monitor access to archived data to detect and mitigate potential security threats.

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4. Ensure Accessibility and Retrieval 

Data archiving can only be successful when you can also search, retrieve, and access data efficiently. To do this, you need to create a comprehensive data indexing and cataloging system. This includes defining metadata attributes that will be used for indexing, such as date of creation, author, project, or any other relevant identifiers. And don’t forget to regularly test the retrieval process to verify that you can access archived data.

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5. Regularly Review and Update Policies 

Business needs evolve over time. Regularly review and update your archiving policies to ensure they remain aligned with organizational goals, regulatory requirements, and technological advancements.  

6. Monitor and Optimize Storage Costs 

While cost savings is one of the primary benefits of data archiving, it’s not a one-and-done thing. Make sure to continuously monitor and optimize storage costs. Evaluate storage options, including cloud storage, and leverage tiered storage architectures to ensure a balance between cost-effectiveness and performance.

Data archiving can have profound benefits for your organization. Just make sure to follow these best practices and use solutions, like GRAX, that provide secure, reliable, and cost-effective archiving and retrieval. 

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