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What is the difference between email archiving and email backup?

/ Technical
November 16th, 2016

differences between email archive and backup

Corporate emails are important records of business decisions, communications and information; and, just like paper documents, you must secure and store them properly. This is where an email archiving solution can assist, but many companies may believe they already store records correctly – by backing up their mailboxes on a regular basis.

There is often confusion between email archiving and email backup, with some believing they perform the same – or very similar functions. In reality, they are different solutions, which businesses should both use.

What is Email Backup?

In simple terms, a backup is designed as a short-term insurance policy to facilitate disaster recovery. A classic backup application takes images of active data periodically in order to provide a method of recovering records that have been deleted or destroyed.

Backups are usually only retained for a short period – a few days or weeks – as more recent backup images replace previous versions. It is important to understand that emails can be deleted in between backups and would thus not be retained. Data is usually kept in a proprietary format which can cause problems for long-term retention.

What is Email Archiving?

In contrast, email archiving is designed to provide businesses with an ultra-secure repository for email records that need to be stored for a long period of time. This may be necessary in order to meet certain regulatory obligations. Email archiving provides businesses with a full record of communications, and additional security features like time-stamping and digital fingerprinting ensure that the email has not been tampered with or edited in any way – essential when providing emails as evidence to courts.

It is also far easier to find and retrieve records from an archiving solution compared to a backup. Emails may be requested by an external auditor or can be the result of an internal investigation. Instead of asking your IT department to dig through volumes of saved data snapshots and format it to comply with the request, they can use the search facilities to locate the necessary records in their original and exact format.

Which solution should you choose?

In the short run, it may seem less expensive to back up your email data to a tape or local server. However, the volume of email data increases every day which results in greater storage requirements. In the long run, the cost of storing and protecting that data can far exceed the cost of implementing archiving.

However, this is not to say that an archiving solution should replace your backups. Both solutions fulfil important functions and should be used in tandem. It’s important to remember that it’s a legal obligation to provide copies of emails if asked by authorities or regulators. This is something that virtually all backup solutions cannot do. In order to choose the most effective and suitable solutions, companies should first distinguish between their backup and archiving needs. Then explore the appropriate storage solutions to meet these needs.