Backup VS Archive, What're the Main Differences and Which One to Choose

Cici updated on Oct 27, 2022 to Knowledge Center

Backup vs. Archive is the primary method of data protection. So some people may be confused about Backup vs. Archive. Although both Backup and Archive can help us store data, we also need to pay attention to their differences to avoid unnecessary data mistakes.

Let's explore the differences and know which one to use when we need data protection.

What is a Backup?


In information technology, a backup, or data backup is a copy of computer data taken and stored elsewhere so that it may be used to restore the original after a data loss event.                    -by Wikipedia

So the primary purpose of Backup is for data recovery. And Backup is used to save copies of frequently changed or updated data. So, according to the data type and requirements, Backup can proceed hourly, daily, or monthly. So the retention time is short-term. And it is aimed at recovering the data or system when there is a data loss or system crash.

What is an Archive?


Research data archiving is the long-term storage of scholarly research data, including the natural sciences, social sciences, and life sciences.  -by Wikipedia

According to the definition, Archive also refers to archive storage, securely saving critical historical data to another storage device. Archive usually holds the organized data that is important but seldomly used. So the purpose is to keep data for a long time to ensure it can finely retrieve data in the future.

Backup VS Archive: What're the Differences?

After knowing the definition and purpose of Backup and Archive, other features still need to be noticed. For example, Backup and Archive are for data storage, but they save different data types. Backup saves constantly changing data, but Archive preserves relatively stable data. And they also have other requirements regarding the processing speed and storage media.

backup and archive


For data backup, it needs to be quick. While for Archive, it's not in a great hurry.

Because Backup usually happens when there is data loss or data needs. If a virus invades the computer or you want to reinstall your OS, you can use the copy of the original data. Under these situations, restoring data is essential to ensure proper computer operation.

While Archive usually happens because of government requirements and legal requirements. Or the company wants to save costs and shorten the backup window. So unlike Backup used for quick operations, archives can take days to retrieve and organize data.

Storage Type

Backup and Archive usually use different storage media. The disk is for Backup to deal with fast data processing, while the tape is a more economical method for archive storage.

Backup aims at quick storage and recovery. Multiple versions of Backup can be made depending on different situations. And the data can be saved on disks, USB flash drives, cloud, etc. And Backup is used to protect all operational data, including the latest files. The workload will be enormous if you want to retain data for a long time. The Backup will have low efficiency and may cost money and time.

Archive mainly organizes and preserves static data. It primarily uses relatively inexpensive storage media such as tapes to save data. And it can be used for long-term offline storage of infrequently used data. Therefore, more capital investment in storage can be saved.

Original Data

Backup and Archive have different ways of handling the original data.

Backup is often used for the active and lasted data. When the data is backed up, the original data can be modified, and if a new backup needs to be created, incremental or differential backups can be made. Usually, the original data will not be deleted after the Backup. And data backup has a connection with the original data. So if the original data is damaged, it can be restored using backup copies.

In contrast, after data is archived, it needs to be kept for a long time according to the compliance requirements of laws and regulations. And the original data cannot be modified. Therefore, if the data or files need to be kept for a long time, it means that there is little demand for the original data, and it can be deleted after the Archive.

Backup vs. Archive: Which One to Choose

As we already know the differences between Backup and Archive, we need to consider the practice. Backup and Archive are so alike, and they are both for data protection. So, when we need to store the data, which method should we choose to protect data? It all depends on the needs:


Backup is available for active and inactive data, while Archive is best for static data.


If the data needs to be recovered because of data loss, Backup is a good choice. Otherwise, an Archive is wise if space management data needs to be kept.


If data problems need to be prevented in advance, data should be backed up regularly. And Archive could help to address compliance and data retention requirements.


If the data needs to be saved for a long time, Archive is the cost-saving method. But if the information needs short-term retention, Backup is enough.

Backup or Archive: Which One to Choose?

In conclusion, understanding the differences between backup and archiving makes it much easier to make data archiving and backup choices. Generally, Backup is chosen for data that has a large number of changes. But Archive is the preferred choice for data and files that will not change much and need to be saved for extraction and investigation,


Backup and Archive are different, but they can complement each other.

Backup prefers data recovery, and Archive chooses data retrieval and management. Therefore, Backup is generally short-term data protection, while the Archive is for long-term preservation.

Although they differ in many ways, they can complement each other, and both play an essential and unique role in data preservation. After understanding their differences in daily work, you can choose the data-saving method wisely and improve efficiency. In addition, it is vital to protect data, there exist many ways to teach you how to backup data, and you can learn more about it.

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