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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Archive360 Talks Archiving vs. Backup Debate


The archiving vs. backup debate continues - fueled by organizations trying to do more with flat or falling budgets, while at the same time facing pressure to remain agile and competitive.  This has been further exacerbated by the need to meet internal governance, legal and external compliance guidelines.

Today, we are speaking with Bill Tolson, Vice President of Marketing for Archive360, on this important topic.

VMblog:  Lets set the foundation first.  How would you explain the difference between backup and archiving?

Bill Tolson:  Traditionally, most organizations have thought about backup as the process by which IT makes a copy of current data so that if an unforeseen event or disaster takes place, information and applications/app states can be recovered, and business continuity maintained.  Organizations turn to the backed-up data store in response to a data loss event.  A data loss event can be momentous, such as a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster - or as simple and commonplace as an email server becoming corrupted.  The archiving process stores a single copy of data for long-term storage and management for legal, regulatory and business reasons.  A key distinction here is that archived data is commonly referred to as the "copy of record" and is typically no longer active.  As such, the two can and should be thought about and treated differently. 

VMblog:  But, are you seeing a shift in thinking here? 

Tolson:  Yes.  An ongoing challenge with traditional backup is the cost involved - the more data you have, the more expensive and time consuming it becomes to backup and manage.  The first question many companies struggle with is how long to hold the backup. Some companies will hold a single backup for a month, some for a quarter, others for a year, and yet others for much longer. The question is why hold it for years if you are backing up a server every night?

And, where to backup?  Onsite, offsite, disk, tape?  How often do you backup?  How secure are your backup processes?  And, do you backup everything?  Then comes that data loss event - how quickly will you be able to restore data and operations?  And, if you were on a 12-24-hour or more full data backup cycle, what will be unrecoverable?  What amount of downtime and/or data loss can your organization withstand from a business, legal and/or regulations compliance standpoint?

Many enterprises create and follow elaborate backup strategies, and purchase expensive systems and services to ensure they can recover from system problems and outages.  However, email systems, records management systems, file shares and other enterprise systems across virtually every industry, are moving to the cloud.  

Individual employee work data can now be quickly, easily and securely synchronized in automatic fashion to cloud-based file share accounts (i.e., OneDrive).  Departmental content and records can, with equal convenience and at lower cost, be made available and distributed via platforms such as SharePoint Online. Moreover, once in the cloud, data is replicated to ensure durability and high availability (HA) - rendering the traditional backup process outdated and obviously unneeded for data stored in the cloud.

VMblog:  So is a backup still needed?

Tolson:  Of course.  Backup isn't going away.  IT professionals are just becoming more savvy about when and how they use it. It is becoming more and more widely accepted that the traditional practice of backing up everything and shipping tapes offsite is error-prone, cost prohibitive, inefficient and leads to over retention and increasing eDiscovery risk. 

Nevertheless, there are some industries - healthcare for instance, that still do it-and in many cases-they keep backup tapes for 10+ years.  The question to ask here again is: Are you really going to restore a 10-year-old backup tape if you experience an outage? Probably not.

The reality is that some organizations maintain these old backups as a substitute for low cost archives. However, finding and restoring these specific files can be extremely slow and expensive, and could pose a possible risk from an eDiscovery or regulations standpoint.

VMblog:  Ok, then what is your recommendation?

Tolson:  Today, many organizations enjoy near-zero data loss from natural disasters, equipment failures, etc.  This is due to massive migration from on premise systems to the Microsoft Cloud and Office 365, including Exchange Online and OneDrive.  Many forward-thinking organizations are already moving to a paradigm where their unstructured data is automatically synchronized to the cloud, bypassing the need for backup.  However, for those IT systems currently not cloud-based, such as departmental file shares that are still being backed up, the obvious, easiest, safest and most cost effective strategy is to move towards a cloud-based solution as well.


Thanks again to Bill Tolson, Vice President of Marketing, Archive360 ( for speaking with

Bill Tolson has more than 25 years of experience with multinational corporations and technology start-ups, including 15-plus years in the archiving, ECM, information governance, regulations compliance and legal eDiscovery markets. Prior to joining Archive360, Bill held leadership positions at Actiance, Recommind, Hewlett Packard, Iron Mountain, Mimosa Systems, and StorageTek.  Bill is a much sought and frequent speaker at legal, regulatory compliance and information governance industry events and has authored numerous articles and blogs. Bill is the author of two eBooks: "The Know IT All's Guide to eDiscovery" and "The Bartenders Guide to eDiscovery." He is also the author of the book "Cloud Archiving for Dummies" and co-author of the book "Email Archiving for Dummies." Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from California State University Dominguez Hills.

Published Thursday, July 13, 2017 8:01 AM by David Marshall
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