All About Cloud Archiving

As well all know, the gold standard is for organizations to back up their data. As opposed to a data backup, archiving moves data to a safe location where it can be stored even when it’s no longer needed frequently. An archive system must make data available for investigations and audits, but the data must also be safeguarded from unauthorized access. A cloud-based archiving solution stores data offsite on cloud servers where administrators can provision the necessary resources to ensure they can create thorough backups with sufficient storage capacity.

What Is a Cloud Archive?

A storage-as-a-service solution lets administrators move all data to the cloud where it’s more convenient, reliable, and cost-effective. Instead of housing large storage resources locally, the organization can pay for storage in the cloud at a fraction of the cost. Not only is a cloud archive cheaper than standard on-premises resources, but it also offers better cybersecurity, administrative maintenance, and accessibility.

Public clouds are often used to archive data. But data can also be stored in a hybrid setup where users seamlessly send data to the cloud, while cloud tools integrated with on-premises resources control authorization access. In some environments, administrators use on-premises resources for backups and then send archives to the cloud.

Whether the organization has a hybrid or public cloud, it can benefit from the cloud's low-cost storage option. Large providers offer costs as low as a few pennies per gigabyte. The organization does not need any additional hardware or software with a public cloud, but a hybrid cloud requires integration and some infrastructure that will work with the cloud provider.

Because enterprise archiving requires potentially terabytes of storage space, another benefit of storing data in the cloud is that additional resources can be provisioned at the click of a button within the provider’s dashboard. Administrators can scale resources up or down depending on the business needs at any given time.

What Archive Means

As an organization accumulates data, typically outdated information is no longer needed. For example, if your database is filled with user orders, the decades-old sales information is unnecessary for day-to-day business. However, there may be occasions when you need to pull historical financial data. But it's expensive to maintain a secured network infrastructure for dormant data. That's where an archive comes in.

An archive is similar to a backup, but the data is stored in a way that assumes it won't need to be accessed frequently. It’s often secured with authorization rules that restrict access. For example, a legal department might need access to archives for litigation and auditing purposes, but a customer service department would not need access.

What Is the Purpose of Archiving?

Archives are a form of data backups, but instead of keeping an active copy in addition to the backup, an archive moves the data from one location to another to free up storage resources for new data. The data is still available if you need it, but it’s infrequently accessed and stored in a location such as the cloud where authorization to retrieve it is restricted. Typically, an archive is only accessed during an investigation or when the organization needs to audit information due to litigation.

The cloud is often the location of choice for archives because it offers virtually unlimited capacity. Compared to on-premises storage, the cost of a cloud archive is low. The cloud also provides reliability and accessibility. It’s rare for a cloud provider’s services to fail, although it occasionally happens. Accessibility means archives are available from anywhere, provided administrators authorize access from remote locations. Administrators can make the archives available to third parties without moving them manually, making it easier to share information.

Archiving in the cloud also has the benefit of better security. Security is necessary to safeguard data, but it’s also necessary for compliance. Compliance regulations require organizations to store data using encryption and access controls. Any connection that transfers the archived data should use HTTPS, and organizations should train employees with access to archived data to understand compliance regulations.

Cloud vs. Tape Storage

Historically, organizations stored massive amounts of data on tapes. Tape servers would write data to cartridges, and administrators would store them in a safe location. Tapes were also easy to store offsite, so an administrator could have backups left onsite and send cartridges offsite to safeguard archives.

Tapes were useful but limited administrators to only enough space until another tape was necessary. If the data exceeded storage capacity, administrators would span archives across multiple cartridges. Cartridges took potentially hours to restore data for review and audit, so it was not convenient to store data should it ever be needed again.

Cloud storage can also take a while to restore, depending on provider bandwidth and the organization’s local network. The difference is that the cloud offers much more storage space, and cloud providers offer specific resources for archives to be restored and searchable should the data ever be needed.

Because the cloud is cheaper, more convenient, has better security, offers better uptime and provisioning, it’s the more favored archive option.