Contemporary Solutions for Data Archiving

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 Archiving vs Backup - The Difference Between Backup and Archival Storage Solutions 

Organizations need storage products that provide authenticity, long-term retention of data and low total cost of ownership over time, without sacrificing the need for fast access and reliability. However, confusion often arises over the difference between backup and archival storage products and the specific technologies that address each need. With continuing high overall storage growth rates and with approximately 80% of data being static fixed content, companies must understand and distinguish between their backup and archiving needs before choosing the appropriate storage solutions to meet those needs. 

  • "Too many companies believe backup and archiving are one and the same; in fact, they are separate processes that can actually improve one another." -
    Brian Babineau - ESG
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Essentially, a backup is designed as a short-term insurance policy to facilitate disaster recovery, while an archive is designed to provide ongoing rapid access to decades of business information while simultaneously supporting regulatory compliance and legal initiatives. Archived records can be, and often are, placed outside the traditional Tier-1 storage infrastructure onto archive storage solutions. This eliminates the need for normal backup cycles and improves operational efficiencies, while backup operations continue to protect the active data that is changing on a frequent basis.

Organizations have the requirement for both data management practices and backup solutions to protect their active data and archive solutions to store their static fixed content data, as illustrated below.


Archiving vs Backup - Data Backup & Recovery Solutions

Classic data backup and recovery applications take periodic images of active data (full image backups, tradbackupsol
incremental backups, point-in-time backups and possible snapshots). These data backup applications utilize various methods and storage solutions to create backups of active data that are used to restore accidentally deleted or altered files or recover from a catastrophic event.

Most data backups are retained for short periods (weeks or months, with later backup images superseding previous versions). Therefore, the permanency requirements for backup storage mediums are much shorter in duration than archive storage medium requirements. Typical backup appliances are tape backup appliances or disk backup appliances utilizing hard drive arrays.

Examples of Backup and Recovery solutions and storage medium utilized include:

  • Disk to Disk Backup Appliance: Short-term storage used to back up hard drives with on-site backup images
  • Disk to Tape Backup Appliance: Long-term backup with images kept on-site and typically off-site
  • Disk to Disk to Tape Backup Appliance: Short and long-term backup images providing on-site and off-site storage options
  • Cloud Backup Storage Gateways: Short-term and long-term backup with backups residing on cloud storage, facilitated through cloud backup gateway products
  • Storage Replication: Real-time data replication, for much more immediate recovery of operations (providing a lower Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

These backup appliances are then used to subsequently restore data, to a state at a particular point in time, should the need arise. Events typically supported by backup solutions include selective data restore, volume restore, and bare metal restore, providing integration with select applications facilitating application of transaction logs to restore all active data to the point of failure.

Attributes of Backup Solutions include:

  • High-performance read/write streaming: Providing the ability to quickly stream data to and from the backup medium. Random access to select data is a much lower priority
  • High media capacity with a lower storage cost per GB: As repetitive images of the same data are being made, not only does data remain on tier-1 storage but now multiple backup copies are constantly being created and managed.
  • Short-term storage medium life expectancy: Backup mediums are short-term in nature, a cheaper storage medium is optimum. Traditionally the preferred storage medium has been tape, with disk and cloud solutions becoming more prevalent as storage prices have declined.


Archiving vs Backup - Archive Solutions

Archival storage requirements are very different from those of backup operations. Archive systems must offer resilient long-term data storage while meeting the core requirements of supporting legal and mandatory regulatory compliance initiatives.


Archive data consists of primary copies of historic data, rather than secondary copies that remain permanent and unalterable. Additionally, media longevity and data authenticity are much more prominent requirements for archive solution environments.

The following illustrates the major functional differences between an archive solution and a backup and recovery Solution. Users or applications will store data on the archive solution that can be thought of as a permanent tier of storage.

Attributes of Archive Solutions include:

  • Regulatory Compliance - Provides storage of archive data and associated metadata that meets regulatory guidelines.
  • Data Authenticity - In order to comply with corporate and government regulations on data authenticity, it is crucial that information be protected from modification. The storage medium utilized must ensure that data is retained as originally created, guarantee the data’s authenticity, and provide tamper-proof authentication techniques. The associated metadata must be retained along with the data and provided the same levels of protection. Hence, Archive Systems will typically utilize hardware based Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) storage such as Optical Media to meet these requirements.
  • Extended storage medium longevity - Storage medium provides extremely long-term storage life of 50 years or higher, eliminating the need for ongoing data migrations as storage mediums such as tape or HDD deteriorate over time.
  • High-performance random read access - For archives, fast random access is typically the most critical performance consideration. Immediate access to random data stored within an archive is essential. Unlike backup solutions, the performance bottleneck for an archive is not read/write streaming, but in providing fast random access to potentially millions of records requested by thousands of users
  • Low long-term total cost of ownership - Archive solutions are much more cost effective for managing static data as they eliminate costs related to data backup, power, cooling, and ongoing storage management overhead such as data migrations.

Though disk-based storage (RAID) is an important component of an archive solution, which will provide caching of frequently accessed fixed content data, it does not replace the capabilities of a resilient storage medium such as optical media storage. RAID, while offering unmatched performance and high capacity, is fundamentally a rewritable media with a life span of several years. It cannot be taken off-line for secure vaulting, and the long-term operating cost for RAID storage is costly. By contrast, optical is removable, has high capacity, provides for long-term preservation of data, and offers fast random read/write access capabilities.

Where would you like to go from here?

Ultra Density Optical™ (UDO) Technologies

UDO™ is the culmination of six generations of technological advancements in optical technology designed specifically for professional data archiving. It provides data authenticity for regulatory compliance or other applications where archived data must remain unchanged and authentic. UDO™ uses a phase change recording process that permanently alters the physical state of true Write Once, Read Many (WORM) recording layer material to maintain data integrity. UDO™ has been designed and proven to deliver over a 50-year-plus media life. First generation UDO™ media was 30GB capacity. Blue laser technology gives 60GB ASTI UDO2™ media more than 6 times the capacity of previous generation Magneto Optical (MO) and DVD technologies. And UDO™ has fast random access capability, facilitating quick retrieval of data for discovery requests.


  • Blue Laser Technology
    • 0.85NA lens (60GB UDO)
    • 300 Degree laser forms Crystals
  • Phase Change Recording Surface
    • Write Once - Amorphous to Crystalline
    • Rewritable - Crystalline to Amorphous
  • Dynamic Write and Read Operation
    • 100% verify after write
  • Phase Change Advantages
    • Non-contact, non-magnetic
    • Degrades very slowly (decades)
    • Extremely stable data life
  • Very tolerant of environmental conditions



Laser Spot Size Determines Density

Where would you like to go from here?

Cloud-Integrated Storage Technologies

As data growth continues to accelerate, IT administrators are facing increasing pressure to improve the utilization of storage assets. The amount of data accumulated by corporations and organizations is increasing exponentially with approximately 80% of all data being static or inactive. The costs associated with storing this infrequently accessed data are at the forefront of IT administrator’s budget plans creating a need for efficient and cost effective data archiving solutions.

With the introduction of Cloud platforms, many new approaches are available that enable IT organizations to reduce cost. As organizations transform to utilize cloud-based platforms, some may move to SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, where entire applications are hosted and run in cloud datacenters with all storage managed within that cloud datacenter. However, most organization’s deployments will involve utilizing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) deployments, where the cloud is an augmentation of their on-premises operations.

IaaS deployments are used to extend the traditional available resources of the datacenter by using elastic resources within the cloud environment, such as storage. Typically, this is the easiest resource to take advantage of as it does not require transformation of applications, but rather integration of cloud storage via either software or hardware based appliances.

The following illustration depicts storage approaches for storage servers including traditional on-premises storage (server with RAID array), Cloud Gateway storage server (server accessing cloud storage), and Cloud-Integrated Storage (on-premises server and storage with integration to cloud storage as well). Cloud-Integrated Storage is also often referred to as hybrid storage.



Cloud-Integrated Storage Technologies - Solutions

Cloud Integrated Storage (CiS) solutions provide the most popular solution for extending the datacenter to the cloud. Cloud Integrated Storage Solutions are often deployed as network-attached storage (file) and unified storage systems (block and file) that implement a tiered storage management scheme. All data is written to the cloud, while only the most active data remains on local storage. All data anywhere within the system, whether stored in the cloud or locally, can be accessed and viewed by authenticated end-users through a single, centralized access point.

CiS offers the versatility of a more integrated approach, merging on-premises storage with cloud storage, as opposed to being just a gateway for moving data to and from the cloud. Virtualizing the storage in this fashion allows seamless access to data with unrestricted growth capacity, while minimizing cost by paying for just the storage utilized.

CiS solves cloud storage problems by caching or auto-tiering active data to local RAID within the appliance and provides a storage administrator with configurable policies that determine when data is automatically moved or migrated to a cloud storage repository or to permanent media such as optical.

Cloud Integrated Storage (CiS) Advantages

  • Merges on-premises storage and storage virtualization with Cloud Storage
    • Merges the benefits of traditional archive storage with cloud
    • Security and confidence of knowing that data is stored both locally and in the cloud
    • Coordinated approach to data archiving with increased flexibility and control
    • Allows users the flexibility of controlling how and where data is archived
  • Thin Provisioning of Cloud Storage
    • Pay as you go for improved ROI
  • Comprehensive Disaster Recovery options
    • Thin Restore for fast data access restoration
    • Continuous DR backup technologies
  • Data Encryption
    • Encrypting data from unauthorized access and disclosure
  • Consolidates system management through one centralized application interface
  • Adds extensibility to existing archive storage systems (where applicable) enabling more thorough utilization of investment

Cloud-Integrated Storage Technologies - ASTI's CiS for Data Archiving

ASTI’s CiS implementation provides the key features required, utilizing cloud storage as an additional storage tier in addition to its on-premises RAID storage and Optical storage tier. Presenting itself as a NAS storage device, all data is permanently written to Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) storage, with cloud based software WORM and optical based true hardware WORM. The cloud storage tier can be utilized as either a permanent archive or as a redundant backup storage tier.  Click here to find out more about ASTI's CiS Solution.



Where would you like to go from here?

Customer Testimonials

Read what our customers are saying about us.

Sangamon County Ciruit Clerk's Office

“Our major issue was time lost chasing documents. With the implementation of the archive solution, retrieval times went from DAYS to SECONDS.”
Tony Libri, Sangamon County Circuit Clerk

Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care

“We had to determine what information was retrievable among the absolute chaos of the first week after Katrina…We were able to recover all of the patient images off the Plasmon libraries…We are now primarily using the Plasmon’s UDO Archive Appliance for its long-term recoverability.” – Kenneth Allen, Health Systems Specialist

AGFA Healthcare

“Ensuring that we could provide a PACS archive solution that helps customers meet HIPAA compliance at a reasonable cost was a critical requirement. This was guaranteed with the performance, longevity, and authenticity of the UDO Archive Appliance.” – Lenny Reznik, Director Enterprise Imaging and Information, Agfa Healthcare.