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Backups vs archiving: what's the difference?

January 16, 20184 min read

woman stressed at laptop

There is often confusion around the difference between 'backups' and 'archives;, and as an archiving platform we get asked about this all. the. time. So let us explain why these similar concepts are very different (especially from a digital preservation standpoint).

Both backups and archives come under the concept of record-keeping, which has become an increasingly important topic for businesses. A greater amount of regulations (especially in the financial services industry with things like 17-a3 & 17a-4 in the states and Article 16 of MiFID II in Europe) mean businesses have to keep thorough records of their digital estates.

And it's not just a question of regulation. With more value being increasingly tied up in websites, it makes sense to preserve and protect these digital assets.

What is a backup?

A backup is a copy of data that can be used for a business' operational recovery.

Basically, if there has been a case of deletion (accidental or otherwise), overwriting or corruption of your data, you will be able to recover it and resume operations as normal with minimal disruption. If you do use a backup to restore data, you will only be able to restore to a previous point in time (the point where you last backed up your data).

Engineers working on server backup

What is an archive?

This is where things get interesting.

Backups are great from an operational recovery point of view, but when it comes to everything else they fall short. Here are just some of the key differences between them:

- A backup only stores data that's needed for operational recovery, therefore it cannot be classified as an official record of publicly available information.

- A backup can be changed and deleted whereas archives are tamperproof and cannot be altered, making them legally admissible

- An archive can hold complete and historic records of how your website appears, most importantly stored in a legally admissible and ISO-compliant format

woman smiling while working on laptop

How are businesses using web archiving?

Website archiving bring benefits on several fronts.

First, as a solution web archiving can drive down the cost of compliance and free up valuable time and resources. At MirrorWeb we've encountered firms from small to large that are caught up in manual record-keeping processes that are inefficient, prone to error and impossible to stay on top of. Relying on half-measures like backups, or even screenshots (!), unfortunately doesn't come close to the solution web archiving provides.

For instance, at MirrorWeb we've created the highly useful Archive Compare tool which allows people to compare and contrast their archives from different dates - something no backup can do. You can see how this nifty new tool works below:

Second, in terms of the legalities, website archives fulfil  this requirement as they are legally-admissible and can be used to evidence when content changed for auditing or supervisory purposes. This is why the technology was used by The National Archives, when they required a solution that could fully archive their 166TB of records (learn more here).

Thirdly, these kinds of archives can be extremely useful for brand preservation and developing future marketing campaigns. A lot of firms use these solutions to establish and preserve digital legacies, instantly showing marketing teams how brands have successfully worked in the past.

Hands pointing at laptop

“With MirrorWeb we liked the solution was like a functioning website that you can navigate just as if it was on the day. That was a core principle, it had both the front end and back end. With MirrorWeb you have export functions, you can run reports and give access to the regulator if needed."

“I’ve been very happy with MirrorWeb and the way the team help me. The onboarding was done nicely; the team were patient and understood the processes we had to go through. Other vendors we spoke to weren’t as understanding."

-Mark Rossiter, Digital Executive (Governance), AXA

Find out how web archiving could fit for your business

At MirrorWeb, our web archiving solution is used by businesses across many sectors including financial services, retail, higher education, local government etc.

Our leading service is designed to combine intuitive and state-of-the-art crawl technology with a dedicated inhouse quality assurance team, giving out customers complete peace of mind with our archiving needs.