Why Physical File Archiving is on the Way Out

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Stop stocking up on external hard drives and make better use of your shared server with a software-based file archiving solution. Here’s how relying on physical storage can hamper your business.

There is no shortage of reasons why you should be archiving your files, from improving server performance to cutting storage costs; in fact, we looked at seven key arguments for why you should archive in our most recent post. But, in this case, the how of archiving is just as important as the why.

What’s the point of saving your data if accessing it is so inconvenient you find reasons not to bother?

What if saving thousands of redundant files makes your archive even more difficult to manage

What if the means you choose to store your data puts it at risk?

The Biggest Problems with Physical Storage-Based File Archiving

Today we’re digging into how software-based solutions can keep your archive up-to-date, accessible and functional. When many people in office environments hear the term “files archiving,” their mind still immediately goes to physical media. As the size of the data hoarded on shared office servers has continued to increase unabated, this image has shifted from desk drawers full of CD-Rs with smudged Sharpie labels to closets packed with dusty external HDs, but the principle remains the same: outdated, redundant and extraneous data threatens to overwhelm server capacity, but no one has the time to parse the wheat from the chaff. Rather than risk the off-chance that something critical buried in those old files might be lost forever, you port the lot of it to a physical file archiving solution. And there it likely remains, now taking up actual space in the office rather than on the server, never accessed again but kept for years like a superstitious talisman just in case.

The scenario outlined above is all too common. It’s also a strange outlier that, as modern offices get more tech-savvy by the day, their file archiving strategy often remains primitive. Here are just a few reasons why physical backups are file management poison:

  • Failure & Corruption: Despite being the backbone of computing since its infancy, somewhat surprisingly there have been few scientific studies on the expected lifespan of hard drives. While a cynic might surmise that manufacturers simply don’t want to admit how often their products fail, it’s also difficult to draw broad conclusions on the subject without years of observation. Fortunately, that’s just what cloud storage company Backblaze did in 2013. As their business relies on running large batteries of hard drives (25,000 at the time), they are well-positioned to monitor failure rates over longer intervals. Under regular use, they found HDs tend to begin failing around the three year mark. Even unused drives are subject to failure—parts can seize up and rust, and you’re always only a leak or spill away from dealing with a useless brick. By making better use of your existing server space and online backups, you reduce your exposure to hardware failure.
  • Where Data Goes to Die: On a shared office server, frequently accessed files are constantly evolving as users continue to make changes and updates. Files stored without regular updates quickly become redundant to the point of being useless, even in the event of cataclysmic data loss on the server side. Software archiving keeps your files accessible and viable.
  • Which Files Should Be Archived Anyway? Sloughing entire directories onto physical storage to free up server space is a sure way to lose easy access to useful files. Meanwhile, asking every stakeholder in your office to manually go through every file slated for archiving to save what they need is inefficient in the extreme. Meanwhile, modern archiving solutions can largely automate the process.
  • Lost in the Archives: It’s also rather difficult to precisely label the contents of an entire HD for later retrieval, which can turn a trip into the archives into a time-consuming goose chase. If you’ve ever had the experience of plugging a sputtering, years-old HD archive to retrieve some distantly-remembered file, you have probably experienced the disorientation of getting turned around in once-familiar directories full of dead data. If you don’t remember the exact file name, standard PC search functions can be of limited aid. Again, top software solutions include robust search and analytics functions that make navigating your archives a snap.

Software-Based File Archiving Strategies

So, as we’ve established, dumping your old files onto USB storage offers the benefit of freeing up room on your shared server at the cost of potentially consigning those files, some of which may remain useful, to oblivion. By contrast, file archiving software like ShareArchiver is something of a best of both worlds solution. A full overview of ShareArchiver’s functionality is a subject for a future post, but here are just a few ways it improves on filing cabinet-style approaches:

  • Compression: The beauty of holistic file archiving is that it keeps your data close to hand. Rather than exiling legacy files to a hard drive gulag, these solutions free up space by compressing the data present on the server. Compression can reduce the size of 10TB of data (for example) by 60%, helping reduce storage costs and speeding up an overburdened server’s performance.
  • Accessibility: With your archive housed on your server, less frequently accessed but still important files take up less space while remaining close to hand. Archived files leave stub links (think desktop shortcuts for key programs) in their original directories, allowing you to view, edit and re-archive them as you would any other resource.
  • Freshness Guaranteed: The best knock-on effect of that increased accessibility? Your archive stays up to date, reducing the half-life of unnecessary past iterations of your files.
  • Reduce Server Bloat: One of the most frequent storage issues on shared office servers is file redundancy: endless copies of the exact same document in different directories. ShareArchiver can identify these clones—not only by matching file names, but by scanning their contents and comparing access dates, giving you the power to delete the duplicates with a keystroke.
  • Analytics-based Archiving: Deciding which files to leave active, to archive and to delete has never been easier. Create policy-based archiving rules with built-in analytics features: want to want to automatically archive any file that hasn’t been accessed in six months? Easy. How about designating certain directories to be compressed annually? Cake.

Cleaning Out the Closet

It’s easy to become attached to the stolid, tactile physicality of a CD, or a DVD, or an HD. It’s storage you can hold in your hand, and that conveys a certain sense of security. But the reality is that in today’s business world, file server archiving solutions have evolved to the great benefit of users. Just as the shared server itself replaced the need to constantly email huge files or pass around USB sticks, archiving software solutions will help make doing business easier as petabyte-level volumes start to become the new norm in many industries. If you’re still feeling nostalgia after making the switch, spend a fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars you’ve saved on storage on the oldest form of physical archive still going: the humble book.

Looking to archive your company’s data? Try ShareArchiver free today!