If you’ve archived backups of data for contractual or regulatory reasons, do you also need to back that data up?
Or if you make backups of your current data, should those backups be archived?
When it comes to data retention, it’s essential to be clear about requirements. Take data archiving for example.
Company projects executed with contractual guarantees to the customer may mean that project data must be retained for years afterwards, in order to determine liability in case of a defect coming to light (think of large construction or engineering projects).
Such archived data must also therefore be backed up, but organisations must then also go further than this.
The point about archiving data is that your organisation should be able to restore the data, and display it and use it, if required.
A backup copy (or several copies) of archived data is therefore mandatory, but in itself is not enough. Archives and their backups must also contain copies of the system software and applications used to manipulate the archived data.
Later versions of the same application may no longer handle the format of the archived data, or display or process it correctly. In the same way that backups of current data must be tested for the ability to restore with integrity and in a usable form, archived data and backups thereof must also be regularly tested.
Should backups of current data and systems automatically be archived? While the same regulatory considerations may not apply, storing past versions of backups can have its advantages.
An operator error that deleted an important data file five backups ago (and that you only just now discovered) may be reversible if you have stored at least the last six backups, and so on.
Some backup systems allow you to store many previous backups and give you tools to pick out individual files or records without having to restore the whole backup.
How much you store in terms of archives and backups will depend on your particular organisation, but the technology exists to help you do both, reliably and automatically.