The Difference Between Archiving and Backing Up the Email Server

44 years after the first ever email was sent, email remains the most important means of communication within companies, despite the increasing use of instant messaging and social collaboration tools. The Radicati Group says that 112.5 billion business emails are sent and received every day around the world in 2015. The international technology market research firm predicts that by 2019, business email will account for 128.8 billion emails sent and received per day. In light of these figures and the challenge of meeting a growing number of regulations on email compliance, eDiscovery, and other legislation, companies are advised to incorporate email archiving into their strategic IT planning. The increase in electronic correspondence has resulted in large volumes of data that need to be archived in order to meet legal regulations.

The difference between backup and archiving

You hear it again and again in small and medium-sized businesses: “We already make email server backups. That’s why we don’t have to archive separately.” Companies that act according to this principle are treading on thin ice. This is because backups do not replace email archiving in a central, complete, and tamper-proof manner for an indefinite period of time, which also ensures that the archive can be quickly searched for eDiscovery.

A backup is regular short- to medium-term storage in the form of copies of entire datasets on external data storage devices in order to perform a restore in the event of data loss. They are used for disaster recovery. In the event of loss, the backed up datasets are copied back from the external storage device. The backups are only available temporarily. For example, it is possible to initiate a daily backup overnight and store it for a specific period of time. Old datasets are permanently deleted on a set schedule solely due to the increasing demand for storage space. As a result, only the latest data is stored until the next backup. The effort required for these regular backups takes time. It is usually only possible to restore entire datasets with this traditional type of backup. A high level of recovery effort may be required, depending on the amount of data. This often leads to delays in core business activities when a restore is needed.

The basic idea behind every archiving operation is the retrieval and availability of data, even over a long period of time. Just think of newspaper and library archives. Companies process invoices, quotes, and support and appointment requests using emails day in, day out. It is advisable to store these emails in their entirety in an authentic, tamper-proof, accessible manner over a period of many years. By doing so, companies can potentially be well protected against certain legal risks. Email archiving makes it possible to use emails as an information source for litigation support. Furthermore it can improve customer services because it can offer information on the history of customer correspondence, and it can be made available at short notice using eDiscovery. Email archiving ensures auditability: Whenever required, information can be made easily accessible by authorized personnel when it is needed. This is precisely what email archiving does and it constitutes the fundamental difference to a backup. Backups on external data storage devices cannot satisfy this requirement because they cannot ensure complete, tamper-proof storage of all emails, as the emails can be deleted immediately upon receipt or before a backup. In contrast, a professional email archiving solution stores exact copies of all emails in a central archive to ensure the availability of any amount of data for many years to come. Measures such as hash values and encryption ensure tamper-proof security. For example, users can also access their emails in Microsoft Outlook and quickly search, find, and restore them using full-text indexing, thanks to seamless integration.

Moreover, a professional email archiving software like MailStore Server differs from a traditional backup in other respects.


Backups cannot replace archiving and email archiving is not capable of replacing traditional backup tasks. It goes without saying that backups remain important, as even regulatory-compliant archives need to be backed up. There is no escaping the fact that the IT strategies of security-minded companies shouldn’t fail to include backups as well as proactive, compliant email archiving in order to ensure swift and complete disaster recovery and avoid legal risks.


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