How Is Database Archiving Different From Backup?

The utilization of backup vs. archiving software for databases is often confused in many organizations.  Customers often use backup for the purposes of archiving and vice versa.  A survey conducted by Symantec Software recently indicates that 70% of enterprises are misusing backup, recovery, and archiving practices. The survey shows that 70% of the enterprises use their backup software to implement legal holds and 25% preserve the entire backup set indefinitely. Also, the survey respondents said 45% of their backup storage is due to legal holds.   Additionally, nearly half of the enterprises surveyed are improperly using their backup and recovery software for archiving.

So what are the differences between the two types of solutions? What should each be used for and how are they complementary?

Backups are used primarily for the purposes of database disaster recovery.  Disaster recovery is usually done to restore the state of a particular data set before an event occurs or to restore a small amount of records or files that have been lost due to accidental deletion or corruption.  A database backup typically creates a copy of the entire database periodically, and maintains incremental changes since the last backup.  A backup process doesn’t remove data from the primary system for the purposes of managing data growth, improving system performance, or reducing maintenance cost.  It should also not be used for the purposes of long term record retention, since backup solutions do not necessarily store the data in the most optimal format, manage the retention and disposition of records, nor facilitate access to the data for eDiscovery or audits.

Archives, on the other hand, should be used for longer term record retention and database archiving is the primary means for managing data growth in databases and enterprise applications.  Database archiving solutions relocate data that are infrequently accessed in the production system, reducing the data size, to improve performance and to reduce hardware and maintenance costs.   Some database archiving solutions also provide compression capabilities to reduce storage capacity and multiple methods to easily access to the archived data for reporting and audits.   Retaining data in a central archive store also facilitates eDiscovery processes to reduce response times.

Organizations should implement the following best practices for database backup and archiving:

  1. Only backup your most current data that is frequently accessed
  2. Do not use backup as a means of retaining records for the long term or to support holding records for legal cases and audits
  3. Implement database archiving practices to reduce the data volumes of large production systems
  4. Use database archiving for long term records retention, legal hold and eDiscovery.

By using database archiving in conjunction with backup solutions, you can

  • Improve production database performance
  • Reduce database storage and server costs
  • Reduce software license costs
  • Reduce the effort required for database performance tuning and maintenance
  • More cost-effectively retain  structured data for compliance
  • Reduce database  backup windows by minimizing relevant data that needs to be backed up
  • Reduce business outage due to database system unavailability during backup, upgrade, and recovery activities
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9 Responses to How Is Database Archiving Different From Backup?

  1. Robert David says:

    Ms. Chandra,

    When doing database archiving, what should a user expect in terms of database compression? Should 1TB of raw data be compressed 10:1, so that it stores on 100GB of secondary disk? Or should the ratios be even higher (ie. 40:1, 50:1, 100:1, etc.)?


  2. Claudia says:

    The compression ratio will depend on the database archiving solution you deploy.

    For Informatica Data Archive, for example, we have multiple methods of archiving:
    - You can archive to another database instance
    - You can archive to an optimized file archive format

    When archiving to another database instance, you won’t get any compression, however, you will maintain seamless access to the archived data from the original application interface.

    When archiving to the optimized file archive format, you will get between 20:1 to 60:1 compresion, and you can still access the archived data w/o uncompressing it from any reporting or Business Intelligence tool.

    For other database archiving solutions, the compression ratio will likely be lower.

  3. Pawan Grover says:

    Hi Claudia,

    This is really a nice article. I don’t have much knowledge about Informatica Data Archive product or any of the other Archiving products/solutions and their benefits in general, is it supports all major RDBMS such as Teradata, Oracle, SQL Server etc. Can you point me to some link or provide some material for Informatica Data Archive and on implementation of Archiving solutions

    Thanks & Regards

  4. Claudia says:

    Yes, Informatica Data Archive supports all the relational databases, mainframe systems, and hundreds of legacy applicaitons.

    Please go to the Products-> Data Archive section on the Informatica web site for additional information.

  5. vikram says:

    How to archive data in SQL Server?

  6. David says:

    How do you “Only backup your most current data that is frequently accessed”?
    Is there a way of selectively backing up tables or parts of tables?

  7. I should also add that an archiving solution would have prebuilt business rules to determine which data is inactive in packaged applications like Oracle E-Biz, Peoplesoft, Siebel. You can also define / customize business rules to archive the less frequently accessed data.

    If you are talking about backup, then you can backup potentially partitions of your database.

    But archiving and backup achieve different purposes.

  8. Wow, this piece of writing is nice, my younger sister
    is analyzing such things, so I am going to tell her.

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