Ask an MSP Expert

Q: I feel like most of my customers don’t know when they need archiving or and when they need backups. They just believe that everything needs to be backed up. How can I explain the differences to my customers to make sure I’m providing the service they need? 

Often, people think archiving and backup can be used interchangeably, but that simply isn’t the case. While they both preserve data, archiving and backup serve two very different functions. In the case of a deleted file, a natural disaster, or a system that needs to be restored, you’re looking for a backup. Archiving is a time-stamped file or email that cannot be changed, which can be crucial for businesses that need to meet compliance regulations.

No matter what type of businesses you’re protecting, both data protection strategies are essential to protecting your customers. Rob Mossi, director of partner sales enablement at Barracuda, shared some insight with us about why backup and archiving is the perfect combination to ensuring that your SMBs’ business-critical email data is safe.

Getting to the bottom of archiving or backup question

Depending on the vertical a customer serves, you may find that they need backup, archiving, or both. Often, highly regulated industries—such as financial services, government, healthcare and higher education—require archiving to meet some form of governance/retention or compliance needs.


Backup and archiving are both ways to store business-critical information. However, there are a few differentiators that set the two apart—which is why businesses often need both. When you’re explaining the difference, it’s important to keep in mind what the customer is trying to achieve.

For example, in the event of data loss, you usually want to restore the most recent—uncorrupted—backup. Retention policies can vary from one business to the next, but the important thing to note is that backup is a copy and requires a restore to get a business or team back up and running.

On the other hand, archiving is more granular. It is a time-stamped record that notes the original time, email message, attachment, and other metadata. Archiving preserves the original document, and it cannot be edited or altered at any time by the user (which is why many regulated industries require it).

With email archiving, every single email and attachment are important—no matter how old it is. If Tuesday’s backup fails, it will most likely be okay—provided you don’t need to restore. However, this is not acceptable with archiving. With archiving, every single email is needed to meet strict guidelines. While archiving is essential for highly regulated industries, it can be helpful for other types of organizations as well. 

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Microsoft Outlook does not have robust search capabilities. Outlook search functionality is limited and restricted to emails (and attachments) that reside in Outlook or Exchange.  If these emails have been lost, deleted or corrupted they are not searchable.  Archiving helps you search, find organize and filter find exactly what you need with high powered search.

How cloud backup and archiving can go hand in hand

Archiving doesn’t eliminate the need for backup, and backup doesn’t create an immutable record. That’s why these two services work better together. When you combine them efficiently, improve operational efficiencies and ultimately lower costs.

Aligning your customers’ retention policies can help you identify which old data can be archived rather than just get backed up over and over again. This can reduce up to 60 percent in backup costs and reduce backup times by 80 percent just by eliminating inactive data that is continually being backed up. This can be very beneficial to your MSP because it will eliminate storage costs, which you can use to increase your margins or pass along the savings to your customer.

Archiving and backup are both essential data protection techniques and as an IT service provider, it’s important to educate your SMBs the differences between them so that you can ensure they have the right solution that fits their needs. Using Rob’s advice can help you determine what your SMB customer is trying to achieve—and save them from a data disaster.

Ready Set Managed

Photo:  Harry Huber / Shutterstock.

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is a content and product marketer with several years of experience in the IT channel. She has created and developed content that helps managed service providers grow their business, and has written many articles featured in SmarterMSP’s The MSP’s Bookshelf and Ask an MSP Expert series.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    Marco Mijatovic June 18, 2018 at 8:31 am

    I couldn’t agree more – keeping your client’s data secured is of great importance if you want to keep them as happy customers.


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