Data archiving is the process of moving inactive or infrequently accessed data from primary storage systems to secondary storage or offline storage, with the goal of reducing the amount of data stored on primary systems while still making it accessible when needed.

Archiving allows organizations to store large amounts of data in a more cost-effective manner, while freeing up resources on primary storage systems and improving performance. Archiving also helps ensure data is preserved for compliance, regulatory, or legal purposes.

Data archiving can be performed manually or automatically, using software tools that enable policies for retention, access, and deletion.


Who Needs to Archive Data

Archiving data is crucial for any organization that stores significant amounts of information. Regulatory standards like PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and SOX require archives to be maintained at specific intervals.

However – each organization must decide when to archive, where to store, and how long to retain the data before it can be deleted or overwritten. Archived data is primarily useful in forensic investigations after a cyber incident, but can also be used for disaster recovery.

Simple backups are sufficient for companies with relatively small amounts of data, but as companies grow, they accumulate large volumes of data that take up valuable storage space, including stale data that is no longer in use. Electronic data archiving is a useful solution for organizations with limited storage resources as it makes storage capacity available for new data.

Archiving files, email messages, and database records frees up storage space while ensuring that the organization remains compliant with regulatory requirements and doesn’t risk losing valuable information that may be needed in the future.


How Proper Data Archiving Works

Data archiving is a critical process in the field of data management. It involves the identification of files and data that are no longer in active use and subsequently moving them to a less expensive storage medium while maintaining data availability. The objective of archiving is to free up more space on faster and more critical storage media while still retaining access to the archived data when necessary.

How Data Archive works

Archiving is based on the principle of saving money while still ensuring that data is safe and available. This involves choosing the right storage medium for archiving.

The storage medium used for this purpose should be less expensive than the primary storage medium, may be slower, and must be secure. This allows organizations to keep the faster storage available for more critical data and increase productivity since it takes employees less time to access current data.

Archiving data has become a crucial strategy for most organizations, especially with the increase in data volume. Most organizations store archived data in read-only mode to preserve the integrity of the archive. This helps in case the archived data is needed in an investigation following a data breach or irregularity. It also helps prevent threat actors from manipulating data to cover their tracks after a compromise.

However, securing data archives is just as important as making them immutable. Attackers know that archives contain a wealth of information about companies’ intellectual property, internal messages, and financial data. These archives, therefore, represent a worthwhile target for attackers to gain access to network accounts with high privileges or to exploit security vulnerabilities.

There are several storage media used for archiving, and the decision is usually driven by expediency, reliability, and availability. Traditionally, companies used magnetic tape because it could store much more data than other media, but tape devices tend to be slower. Nevertheless, this medium is still standard in some companies that want a cost-effective way to store large amounts of data in a small space.

Attached network drives are also common storage media, but this medium is much more expensive than magnetic tape. Network storage requires an appropriate operating environment and expensive hardware to back it up and maintain it. But unlike most tape systems, these archives are immediately available if the organization or investigators ever need to access them.

A third common option is cloud storage, which combines the benefits of availability and low cost. However, the speed of access is dependent on the bandwidth of the corporate network. Many organizations have moved to cloud storage because of the aforementioned benefits, but it is still the responsibility of the individual to ensure the security of the data.

To automate the archiving process, organizations can use archiving software that offers standard functions for all common platforms. The administrator configures the time, location, and data that needs to be archived, and the software does the rest. An archiving policy must be created to define the criteria for moving data and to ensure that data moved to the storage location meets regulatory standards and requirements.

Due to other archiving requirements, a retention policy is also necessary. It defines how long an archive remains available before the data can be overwritten or deleted. For backups, the retention period is typically 30 days, but archives are often kept longer. Some companies keep them for years before rotating the media or deleting the archives.

For particularly sensitive data, archives should never be overwritten or destroyed. Archiving and compliance policies might have specific retention requirements, so organizations should ensure that their configuration does not violate legal requirements.


Data Archiving – Pros and Cons



Advantages

Data archiving offers two primary benefits: Namely cost savings and the ability to offload fast storage devices. Archived data can be stored on a less expensive, reliable storage devices that are protected from damage. To ensure the reliability and redundancy of archives – they can be included in backup procedures or stored in the cloud, where the provider guarantees operational reliability.

Offloading data to cheaper storage devices allows organizations to save money by freeing up faster storage devices. This eliminates the need to purchase additional expensive storage devices – resulting in a more efficient and cost-effective storage environment. This can also increase productivity, as employees can easily access necessary data, without sifting through irrelevant data that is no longer in use.

However; administrators must carefully determine which data to archive, to avoid impacting user productivity. Files that are still in active use should not be archived, even if they were created years ago. Similarly, some email messages should not be archived, such as those that users have saved in their inbox. Messages that are no longer needed can be moved to an email archiving system, rather than remaining on the mail server.

Disadvantages:

One of the main disadvantages of data archiving is the increased risk of data breaches. Archiving data requires storing it on some less expensive storage devices – which may be more vulnerable to cyber threats. These storage devices may be targeted by attackers – seeking to gain access to sensitive data, intellectual property, and financial information.

Another disadvantage of data archiving is the added complexity and cost associated with managing the archived data. Also “Archived Data” requires ongoing maintenance – organizations must ensure that it is stored in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. This can be a significant challenge, especially for organizations with large volumes of archived data.

Moreover; data archiving can also lead to issues with data access and retrieval. Archived data is not typically stored on high-speed storage devices, which can result in slower access times. Retrieving archived data can also be more time-consuming and challenging, which can impact employee productivity and hinder decision-making.

Pros & Cons at a Glance

Pros
  • Cost savings by moving data to less expensive storage media
  • Offloading fast storage devices, freeing them up for more critical data
  • Preserving important data for future use
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance and meeting legal requirements
  • Increased productivity by reducing data clutter
  • Faster backup and restore operations by reducing the size of the active data set
  • Improved disaster recovery by having multiple copies of data stored in different locations
  • Access to archived data for data analytics and business intelligence purposes
Cons
  • Increased risk of data breaches and cyberattacks
  • Complexity and added cost of managing archived data, including maintenance and regulatory compliance
  • Slower access and retrieval times for archived data
  • Potential loss of data integrity or accuracy over time
  • Risk of data loss if the storage media fails or becomes corrupted
  • Potential difficulty in locating and retrieving archived data, especially if retention policies are not clearly defined
  • Need for specialized archiving software and hardware, which can be expensive and require specialized expertise to manage
  • Potential legal and ethical issues related to data privacy and protection, especially for highly sensitive data.

What are the Differences Between Archives and Backups

Data archives and backups are often confused, with the two terms frequently used synonymously. While both are important, they serve different purposes. Here are some important differences.

Backups store a copy of data, while archiving involves moving data to a new location to free up space.

Backups are important for compliance, disaster recovery, and business continuity – while archives are necessary for compliance purposes. Some organizations use both archived data and backups together, with the backup of an archive helping to ensure its integrity.

If compliance requires archiving, organizations should ensure that the retention policies set out in regulations are followed to avoid penalties. Both backups and archives must also be adequately secured.

Insufficient cybersecurity measures can leave archive data vulnerable to cyber attacks. A data breach in an archive could have devastating effects on a company’s integrity and reputation. Whether it is backups or archives – it is essential for companies to ensure that these files are well-protected against attackers and their exploits.

Categories: BlogStorage

James R. Kinley - It Admin

James R. Kindly

My Name is James R. Kindly i am the founder and primary author of Storaclix, a website dedicated to providing valuable resources and insights on Linux administration, Oracle administration, and Storage. With over 20 years of experience as a Linux and Oracle database administrator, i have accumulated extensive knowledge and expertise in managing complex IT infrastructures and databases.

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