Is Email backup the same as Archiving?


New Email
There are plenty of people who have been arguing over the true definition of what “backing up ” is and what “archiving” is. Some say that “email backup” is merely short-term reprieve and “email archiving” is the only long-term solution. Others say that “backing up” does not satisfy legal compliance while “archiving” is for storing only obsolete mails.


In most instance, the following definitions seem to be agreed upon:

Backup: A backup refers to a copy of data that may be used to restore the original in the event the latter is lost or damaged beyond repair. It is a safeguard for data that is being used.

Archive: An archive refers to a single or a collection of historical records specifically selected for long-term retention and future reference. It is usually data that is no longer actively used.

Two essentially similar services (saving emails) being called separate names to be able to sell two separate solutions. What if nowadays, these two are in fact the same thing?

Perhaps in the past, before the advent of cloud computing, email backups are more limited. People resorted to only taking snapshots of the most recent emails they had. It took up immense storage space, too long to backup and yet it wasn’t good enough to retain all details.

Hence, back then, to some extent, backups are only for disaster recovery, while archives are for retention and discovery. In those days, it was necessary to differentiate email backups and email archiving.

However, as technology improves, backing up in the cloud is now a long-term strategy and sufficiently cheap enough for everyone. With the cloud, there is no longer a need to store emails on one’s own servers or computer.

Renting cloud storage space is now affordable for corporations, Small-Medium-Enterprises and even individuals. Good email backup services will even automatically backup emails daily without hindering users’ time or efforts.

In fact the data and emails are always kept safe in the cloud. As emails are the official communication records of any business, its contents are usually sensitive and confidential.

When the users trust a credible third party source, all emails (sent / received / drafts / etc.) and attachments are collected. The information stored will then be protected with military-grade security. This way, data backed up in the cloud is never vulnerable to unauthorized access or deterioration.

Storage in the cloud also means that it is always accessible and retrievable. In the cloud, users’ data must be available at any time for transparency and accountability.

With the restoration function of selected reliable email backup solution providers, even if there were accidental or intentional deletions, one click will restore the entire contents of inboxes. In this way, email backups in the cloud are now compliant to the same rules and regulations that was an exclusive territory of email archiving.

Still, despite lengthy essays and protracted discussions, the only consensus is that everyone disagrees. One of the blogs weighing on this matter explains it best, “IT is full of smart people and smart people argue a lot”.

However, for the rest of us who are laymen in this technical realm – the real question should be:

“Is there a difference?”

The fundamental purpose of both functions is to save a copy of your email. What difference does it make to the rest of the non-IT world if it is just a definition issue? After all, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet – hence, an email backup or email archive that saves email would be as secure.


Customer Service
This is unclear. Is there a meaningful difference in the terms? I think the terms "email backup" or "backup of email" means a short term backup solution like a one time export of my emails to files or the backups that my ISP has of my email account. The term "email archiving" from what I'm reading is supposed to be for long term email backup/recording/storage of the email. Those email archives are for business reasons because a company is required to keep a long term email archive of all incoming and outgoing email. I don't think that most ISP's support email archives.

EQ Admin

EQ Forum Admin
Staff member
That sounds about right to me. Email backups are a short term disaster recovery solution. Server implodes = get backups from tape. As you said, maybe that's also the user keeping copies of their email on their computer or detachable storage device. Email archiving is a long term (can be permanent) email backup solution that also usually includes copies of all sent and received mail not just the ability to restore accounts from backups. As you said the email archiving can be for legal reasons, for example HIPAA email compliance.