I was reading this article when I came across this curious tid bit:

Think I'm exaggerating? Just ask Morgan Stanley, who up until the mid 00's used their backups as archives. The SEC asked them for a bunch of emails, and their inability to retrieve those emails resulted in a $15M fine. They also had a little over 1400 backup tapes that they needed months of time to be able to pull emails off of to satisfy an electronic discovery request from a major lawsuit from Coleman Holdings in 2005. (They needed this time because they stored the data via backup software, not archive software.) The judge said "archive searches are quick and inexpensive. They do not cost 'hundred of thousands of dollars' or 'take several months.'" (He obviously had never tried to retrieve emails off of backup tapes.) He issued an adverse inference instruction to the jury that said that this was a ploy by Morgan Stanley to hide emails, and that they should take that into consideration in the verdict. They did, and Morgan Stanley lost the case and Coleman Holdings was given a $1.57B judgment.

So what's the difference between "Archive Software" and "Backup Software" and why are archive searches quick and inexpensive? Was the judge right about this, or just confused?


An Archive is usually a bulk storage system (NAS, SAN, file servers) that offload older items from the live production databases in email servers, file servers, databases, etc. The data is still live and accessible, it's just offloaded to a system that is likely slower and less utilized. It can also hold onto deleted items for arbitration purposes like the article you referenced. Some laws like SOX and HIPAA require certain levels of retention.

Backups are simply that. They are a disaster recovery system for when the worst of the worst happens. It could be something as simple as recovering a file that was accidentally deleted, or a mailbox that was corrupted. It can also save your job when a server dies or a building burns down (if you have a proper backup solution in place).

Both involve thinking ahead, but for different reasons. An archive is not a backup and a backup is not a very good archive. If you work in a legal or medical field or any field that requires archiving, there are several methods. Email archiving, for instance, can be achieved by the last 3 versions of MS Exchange (maybe 2007?) by purchasing Exchange Enterprise CALs and creating an Archive Database. Therefore, instead of archiving to the local HDD, you can instead offload old email items to a secondary database. Arbitration holds can be set up as well to retain all items in Exchange including those deleted.

I've had to pull emails from backups before and I promise it's not cheap. I charged several thousands of $$ to do the full scan. I will say tape backups, although efficient, have become obsolete. Many backup systems I deploy nowadays has a storage pool in two locations that are replicated. Critical systems have two locations plus a cloud storage vendor.

  • I asked about "archive software"; that sounds more like "archived software" same thing? Backups would still contain the data as it was at the time, the "archived software" you talk about would just be there in the state the system was in when it was completed being used, so if anything was purged from that, you would have to go get a backup. Now depending on the software in question it may save old versions of records, but if they were purged it would not. I suppose Big Data could fix this issue, but it would still be at an ever increasing cost.
    – leeand00
    Dec 9 '16 at 14:02
  • I agree with the author that tape backups should not be obsoleted because they are cheapest form of backup, and don't require bandwidth since you can "never underestimate the unlimited bandwidth of TRUCK". I think alot of places might go out of business when they stop using tape backups, since a certain level of going into the red might force them to use something other than expensive hdds for doing long term backups on.
    – leeand00
    Dec 9 '16 at 14:07
  • 1
    Just because it's the cheapest, doesn't mean it's the best. You'll want to find a balance between cost effectiveness and your recovery time objective (RTO). If it takes a day or two to restore, your business will suffer financial consequences. However, if you spend a little extra now, you could reduce the overall financial loss with a speedier recovery. That's why CIOs look to reduce their RTO while maintaining a proper ROI. Dec 9 '16 at 16:21

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