3 min read

Email Archiving vs Backup: What's the Difference?

It’s important to know the difference between an email archive and email backup because many still confuse the actions and purpose of either one. In fact, there are major differences that can have a significant impact on your business. So which should your company be using? Find out as we explore both archiving and backup below.

What is Email Backup?

Backup is a copy of data that can be recovered in case the original contents are destroyed or deleted. A backup is the same whether it’s emails, files on your laptop/desktop or even all your photos on your smartphone. Because a backup exists as a snapshot of what is currently saved, if you create a new backup, it replaces the existing backup. 

If a user accidentally deleted an email or the correspondence is corrupted and a new backup is created before recovery, then those emails are lost forever to the new backup. 

Depending on the email backup you use, you may have to complete a full restoration of the database just to recover a few corrupted emails. Essentially, your email database is replaced with an out-of-date backup. If you continuously do this process, a lot of emails get destroyed accidentally or by design. This leaves your business at risk from violating compliance laws such as GDPR and industry regulations. If you aren’t aware of lost emails, then you won’t be aware of your violation until it’s too late, and you risk fines should a litigation demand be made.  

Backups aren’t designed for efficient searches and can be edited which fails to meet compliance.

What is Email Archiving?

Email archiving is the process of storing emails sent to/from a recipient and making them searchable. When an archive is set up, the email is copied as it’s transported to the individual’s inbox or from the email service itself. Emails are stored either in a cloud solution, on-premise server or a hybrid archive.

Unlike a backup, new emails are added to the archive rather than replacing any. All emails stored in an archive are tamper proof, meaning they can only be read by users. All access to such emails are logged by the archive for administrators to monitor.

Because all incoming and outgoing emails are stored in the archive, if an email message is accidentally lost it can be easily recovered in the archive without having to restore the entire database. All emails are indexed within the archive, making it possible to search for particular keywords. Because nothing is lost in an email archive, you can remain compliant with regulations. 

A benefit of having an email archive in place, means you don’t have to keep old emails on your server. You can save space and clean up your inbox by simply deleting those emails, knowing there are copies safely stored in the archive. Email server performance improves if there are less emails in user inboxes. Knowing how long to keep your emails will be down to your industry and the email retention policy you have.

Restore or Retrieval

To differentiate an email backup and archive, you have to remember the purpose of each. A backup system restores your emails while an archive is used to retrieve messages. 

Usually, when you store something, it’s usually a file, server or database. When you retrieve something, it’s usually a collection data that isn’t always stored on the same server. Restores are also done to a specific point in time, like an operating system restore whereas an archive can retrieve from a period of time.

Why the Difference Matters

Because there are people who still confuse a backup for an archive, some keep a backup for years as their archive. The difficulty of using a backup as an archive will be realised when you get a retrieval request, and how difficult it is to retrieve emails from something designed for restoring. While an archive can find you information in seconds, retrieving from a backup could take you months. 

Taking too long to retrieve vital information during an eDiscovery or freedom of information request can lead to huge fines. 

Understanding the difference between a backup and an archive is the first step to protecting your business and your client’s information. With an email archiving solution from Cryoserver, you can start retrieving data in seconds from an encrypted and protected archive. 

Contact Cryoserver today and select the email archive that will benefit your business.


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