Blogger: Bill Pray
For e-mail systems, archiving and backup need to be treated as different strategies that solve two different problems for an organization. E-mail archiving is about e-discovery and compliance. E-mail backup is about disaster recovery. Unfortunately, because both technologies save e-mail data, many organizations choose to use backups as their defacto archiving solution.
Almost every enterprise has implemented backups for e-mail. Performing backups for critical systems, like e-mail, has been a core part IT from the beginning. Backups have become a best practice that is ingrained in the function of IT. Backups store the data and configuration information for an e-mail system so that in event of a failure, the system can be quickly restored - preferably to the last known good state - a snapshot of the system and its data at a point in time. Therefore, the value of backup file diminishes over time. As backup files age, they become less relevant and more difficult to use for anything because of changes (e.g. software patches, hardware, etc.) to the configuration of the e-mail system.
However, the archiving of e-mail has become increasingly important as organizations are required, generally through legal activities, to actually find specific e-mail data that has been saved. Archiving provides the capabilities to search and find e-mail data that has been moved off the e-mail system into storage through the user interface and/or administrative interface. Archiving provides for the intelligent storage and retrieval of e-mail messages, no matter what their age.
Unfortunately, many organizations rely on backups for their archive. Since the backup stores the data, the thinking is that it can also be the archive if it ever becomes necessary to access older e-mail messages. The problem with this approach is that because the configuration information is also saved during backups, over time it becomes increasingly more difficult to recover data from a backup file because you need to recreate the environment as it was at that point in time - same hardware, same OS, etc.
There are two interesting trends to watch in the market in relation to e-mail archiving and backups. First, integrated archiving - basic archiving functionality that is included as a feature of the e-mail system. Second, the merger of backup and archiving as a single solution. Both may change how e-mail archiving and backups are addressed by IT in the future.
To put it simply: With current technologies, an archive is not a backup and a backup is not an archive. They meet different needs for an organization.