Backup, archiving, storage: what's the difference?

Backup, archiving, storage: what's the difference?

By Fabien Paupier
Updated: 20 May 2020, first publication: June 2017

Hearing the terms "backup", "archiving" and "storage" in the same conversation is a common occurrence. It's true that these three terms share a basic function: saving data. This is where the similarities end however: the objectives, types of data, uses and length of conservation set them apart. We have laid everything out for you in this post and if you read until the end, you will find the comparisons we made just for you!

Aim and strategy for data management

The choice of one option over another is made primarily with the aim of the project. You need to know whether the information must be easily recoverable, whether it needs to be saved in the long run, and whether it needs to be integrated in the collaborative practices framework. Here are the main levels:


The aim of a backup solution is to recover the data in the case that it is made inaccessible, through loss or damage. Backups are applied both to active data (files on which you work every day) and inactive data (fixed data). When the backup is inactive, it isn't subject to editing. It's simply a copy of the information being generated. To put it differently, if your backup is lost for whatever reason, you aren't affected in your every day work because you still have your active data. In general, the lifespan of a backup is shorter than a year. MS Azure Backup, AdBackup and RG Backup specifically address data recovery issues.


The aim of archiving is to conserve your old or "dormant" data for a long period of time (more than 1 year). What motivates companies to use an archiving solution is the desire to store a large amount of data for a long period of time in a low-cost environment. The prices offered by solutions like RackSpace, Amazon, OVH and others are constantly going down. The cloud storage option is becoming very attractive. Unlike backups, archived data is active: there is no other copy of it so its loss spells a loss of information for your company.


Storage, or STaaS for "Storage as a Service", addresses the issues surrounding collaborative uses, unlike the previous two concepts. This is also the most versatile option for giving final users a very substantial storage space at a very low cost, even no cost for small volumes. The storage is useful for the sharing of files and large documents, such as photos and videos. It is very convenient for companies carrying out graphics works for example. Some companies use storage for archiving but we don't recommend using it for backup because storage doesn't offer data recovery functions or any guarantees. On top of its price and flexibility, STaaS offers the upside of being freely resizable for the easy handling of your resources in accordance with your needs.

The type of data

Backup, archiving and storage also differ in regards to the data you wish to save:


Online backup apps allow you to backup all, or part, of a given system. We differentiate, in general, between server devices (PC, tablet, phone) for information criticality reasons, even if the function is the same. This principle allows you to develop one or more copies of files, software and operating systems. In the case of a disaster, you can restore the lost elements or the entire system following the same process.


Archiving allows you to conserve files and files alone. It consists most often of documents, photos, videos, emails and databases. Unlike backups, this solution doesn't offer the possibility of conserving software, apps and operating systems. The advantage of archiving is then the ability to directly access a specific file without having to go through restoration. Most of these solutions manage the metadata and integrate a search engine to easily find specific files. Archiving also offers traceability functions and the ability to conserve legal information - documents which must be conserved in their original version can be archived by some hosts with an electronic signature or stamp with legal value.


Data stored in storage applications consists of large and active files, meaning that users can potentionally use them as soon as they're stored. They then have the option to deposit their files without worrying about the space available in order to share them with their colleagues or just to access them across their fixed and mobile devices thanks to a syncing feature. Storage makes sense with the multitude of operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, etc.), devices for accessing information and the mobility of the users. Amongst the storage solutions, we have OneDrive, hubiC and Box.

Data recovery

If data recovery is simple for archiving and backup solutions, it causes certain issues nonetheless. These solutions work on the principle of the movement of complete files to or from a space offered by the host. Each movement causes a massive usage of the bandwidth. Additionally, moving a large number of data can cause errors and corrupt files. The option to opt for if data recovery is a key requirement for you is backups. Backups are specifically designed for this sort of intervention. Incremental data exchange like with Delta-Bloc does not overload the bandwidth. The AdBackup solution by Oodrive is the first to offer this revolutionary feature. What's more, you will have DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) features. This allows you to restore part of your files or the entire workstation/server to the machine of your choice or on a hard disk which the host will deliver to your office.

Free backup, archiving and storage applications

The attractiveness of a free offer is undeniable but it has its risks however. By offering you a free service, the host certainly profits from advertizing and doesn't guarantee the confidentiality of your data under any circumstance. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also not guaranteed. You are exposed then to the risk of a service breakdown without any explanation required of the service provider. However, with Oodrive, RGSystem and Oxileo's professional offers, you benefit from semi-indispensable services: insurance against data loss and reactive technical support in France. For example, Oodrive insures up to 3 million euros and Oxibox up to 8 million. Given that the costs for professional solutions are very low, we suggest keeping the free services for your family albums!

Prices, functions and services of various solutions

As promised, here is a selection of solutions and criteria for making your choice:

This post will shortly be updated with an archiving solutions comparison. In the meantime, you can find all of our guides on computer services. The online storage market will enjoy a global growth of 15% per year in the 2015-2019 period, according to a ReportsnReports study. If the subject interests you, don't hesitate to give us your opinion and ask your questions!

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