What is the Difference Between Backing Up and Archiving Data?

Being able to easily access and recover data is essential to any business in any industry. However, there the two terms seem to be confused for one another. So, what is the correct term to use and for what purpose?

What are Backup Files?


A backup is technically another copy of data stored for safekeeping just in case the original data gets lost or damaged. When the original data is copied, it is not deleted but rather used for whatever purpose it is intended for.

To understand the concept of backing up better, here are a few examples:

  • Creating copies of your files from your laptop onto an external drive, just in case your memory fails you and everything gets lost.
  • Copying photos from your phone to a cloud to ensure your access to them if your phone gets stolen or damaged.

Unstructured data (file servers) and structured data (databases) are also backed up for efficient filing and quick access in any immediate need. Whichever case it may be, a backup can focus on a variety of data and files.

The very definition of the term “backup” boils down to its primary function. In retrospect, the function of a backup file has never changed – it simply restores your file in the event something does happen to it. With unpredictable system crashes, human error, or worse system breach, it would be good to know that you have a security blanket to save you if you are caught in a tight bind. Imagine if your RAID 6 goes under a disk failure and everything would need to be reformatted if you didn’t have backup files ready this could be a huge problem. With an efficient backup system and routine, you would not need to worry about things like this. Instead, you can carry on with what you need to do.

What are Archived Files?


Archived copies are made solely for reference and are basically used as a long-term storage solution. The original file may be kept on the main frame or deleted when an archive file is created.

We know that the purpose of a backup is to restore the file in case of loss, damage, or theft but an archived file has multiple functions. Archived files are supposed to help you easily access information that has been stored long ago. It could be a part of an entire document or the whole database. Here are a few examples where archives are put to use:

  1. Emails are often archived from the main server and use for whatever purpose they are intended for such as evidence for lawsuits and other legal needs.
  2. Architectural firms archived old drawings and blueprints to be able to revisit old designs or fix internal structures of previous projects.
  3. Getting access to old documentation that may be needed in any case, such as contracts, certification, and any other official documents.

In order to efficiently access your archived data, a well-organized file archiving system should be in place. This allows you to retrieve any file you need in a matter of minutes instead of going through each piece one by one.

Archiving files is quite helpful, and is often overlooked. Being able to archive your files will help you find answers to questions you thought you didn’t need. With technology quite advanced, we can archive pretty much anything with just a click of a button.



Even though the terms are often mistaken for one another, we’re here to set the record straight. Backups are not the same with archives. They may seem to have a similar function, but the main purpose for why these files were created is quite different. Archives are used for long-term storage whereas backups are intended to be used for loss, damage, or possible theft. Though these systems come at a price, they are cost-effective.

Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.