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Archiving Software

Archiving software optimizes the storage, retention, discovery, and retrieval of corporate documents, data, emails and website pages.

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Archiving Software Buyers Guide

Archiving software describes a category of software solutions designed to help businesses retain and secure inactive data while moving it from primary storage to secondary storage. Most archiving software is cloud-based and allows vast amounts of data to be stored over the long term. This can be vital for growing businesses because the amount of data that needs to be stored and kept safe will usually increase as growth occurs.

Through the use of archiving software, businesses can store a wide range of documents, emails, legacy website pages, online content and more. The archive can include both structured and unstructured data. Aside from helping to store this data over the long term and retain the data for any future retrieval needs, it can also be used to free up space on primary storage, which can then be reserved for the data that is most critical for day-to-day operations.

Although archiving solutions are primarily used by businesses, they may also be used by charities, non-profit organisations, academic institutions, researchers, scientists, and individuals in numerous other professions where the collection and long-term storage of data is a major feature of the role.

One of the main reasons companies adopt archival software is so that data can be retained and kept secure while still complying with regulations and storage policies. The functions of archiving software mean that it is often categorised alongside backup software and data management software solutions. Another similar software category is email archiving software, and these solutions serve an almost identical purpose, albeit with a specific focus on the retention of email communications and related data.

Once data has been archived, the retrieval process is usually straightforward and can be carried out using built-in search tools. Furthermore, some of the features within file archiving software can vary significantly. Nevertheless, there are some core features contained within almost all software packages of this kind, which help define the software. As a result, most users will be able to carry out the following actions:

  • Move data that is not currently being used to secondary storage and keep it secure
  • Search through the archive to find specific files or specific content within files
  • Establish different levels of authorisation and determine who has access to files and folders
  • Store multiple versions of the same file or document and navigate between these versions
  • Ensure compliance with data regulations and business policies on data retention

What is archiving software?

Archiving software—or an archiving app—is the name given to a software solution that can be used to retain inactive data and keep it secure while moving it away from primary storage. This movement of data from primary to secondary storage allows businesses, organisations and individuals to keep hold of older data, which may be useful again in the future, but which is not currently in use and which is not expected to be needed in the immediate future. Files that are added to an archive may include documents, emails, web pages, and previously published online content.

Through the software, archive data can be stored and kept secure in a repository, which can be accessed at any time. Levels of authorisation can be established so that only specific individuals within an organisation have access to the archive, and individual files and folders can also have different authorisation levels applied. This helps with compliance issues while also keeping confidential information away from prying eyes.

Most high-quality archiving solutions will include built-in search functionality, making it easier for users to find the specific files and folders they are looking for or even specific content within those files. The vast majority of modern solutions are cloud-based. It is also worth noting that data can also be moved from the secondary storage associated with the archive back to primary storage, meaning archived data can be turned back into active or 'in use' data.

What are the benefits of archiving software?

The benefits of using archiving software can vary significantly, depending on the user's needs. However, for the most part, these benefits are centred around the idea of being able to move inactive data away from primary storage while still keeping it safe, secure and accessible for future use. With that said, some of the common or generalised positives associated with acquiring high-quality file archiving software include the following:

  • Secure archiving of inactive data: Perhaps the main advantage linked to using data archiving solutions is the ability to store inactive data in a safe place. Most solutions are cloud-based, meaning archived data is stored securely in the cloud, but other solutions allow archived data to be stored on secondary storage devices. Regardless, the data is removed from primary storage, allowing for a more streamlined approach to data retention, and inactive data remains accessible if it is needed again in the future. Many archiving solutions will also allow different versions of the same file to be kept in the archive. This means that, for example, it becomes possible to access older versions of a web page or older versions of a corporate document. Keeping inactive data may be necessary for various reasons, but this retention of different versions can also be advantageous because it allows businesses or individuals to revert current data to a previous version if that becomes desirable in the future.
  • Compliance with data regulations: Among the other major benefits of using archival software is the ability to retain data for long periods—without taking up much-needed storage space—but while still complying with rules, regulations and business policies. For example, some company data, such as financial information, may need to be retained for a minimum period, and that period could be several years. However, much of this data may be inactive, meaning it is not currently in use or needed for day-to-day operations. Archiving it through a software package ensures that the business remains fully compliant with the need to retain the data, but the company also gets to free up space on primary storage and streamline its active data. This same principle can be applied to data that legally needs to be retained or data that should be retained based on company policy.
  • Improve system performance: The ability to move old and inactive data from primary storage media to a secondary storage area can have significant benefits in terms of improving overall system performance. This primarily occurs because storing too much data in primary storage can lead to an overload, where IT systems start to run more slowly. By contrast, reserving primary storage for active data only can help to ensure that systems run faster, while decluttering data can also make it quicker and easier to find active data needed to perform daily operations. Archiving systems allow individuals and organisations to develop a clear process for moving data into the archive so that primary storage space is always available.
  • Data accessibility and recovery: Aside from providing users with options to securely store inactive data, comply with regulations and optimise system performance, one of the biggest plus points of acquiring archiving software is the option it provides to access inactive data whenever it is needed. Although this data is moved away from primary storage, it remains easy to find, especially when the software comes with robust in-built search tools.

What are the features of archiving software?

The features of archiving software centre around the idea of taking inactive data from primary storage and moving it to a secondary storage location. This results in the creation of an archive of past or inactive data, which can still be accessed or restored at any time. Specific features can vary from one solution to the next, depending on factors like the target audience or target business sector, and some solutions are geared towards specific types of data. Nevertheless, there are also some core features seen in the overwhelming majority of solutions of this kind, and some common features, which buyers can expect to find in most solutions. The main features include:

  • Archiving and data retention: Move inactive, unused, or legacy data from primary storage into secondary storage, to create a data archive. Data being moved away from primary storage helps free up space and improve system performance while decluttering storage devices and making it easier to sort through the remaining active data. Once data is added to the archive, it can still be accessed, viewed, edited, or even restored to primary storage devices, if required. The best solutions will include various built-in security options, helping organisations and individuals to keep their archived data safe from cyber security threats. Over time, this results in the creation of a secure and reliable archive database. High-quality archival software will also provide tools and options for renaming files, as well as for sorting the archived data into logical folders or categories.
  • Full-text search: Look through an entire archive—using full-text search functionality—so that specific information can be found quickly and effortlessly. The best software will provide users with options to enter text strings and find data within the repository that matches the string. In addition to exploring file names, it may be possible to search for specific strings of text within documents or emails. This can be especially useful in situations where highly specific information needs to be found. Some solutions will also allow files to have keywords or categories allocated to them, which can help to boost the effectiveness of the search feature further. Meanwhile, continuous improvements to speech-to-text technology have also made it possible to find archived information using voice commands.
  • Data retention management: Define policies or rules for data retention so that the correct information is moved to the secondary storage location associated with the archiving software. Through careful data retention management, users can establish precisely which data should be archived and which data should be kept in primary storage. Establishing rules and policies offers a level of standardisation to this process while also opening up the possibility of automating many of the associated tasks. Crucially, when some of these archiving tasks can be automated, it frees up more employee time to be spent on the most complex tasks, boosting overall productivity.
  • Access controls/permissions: Define different levels of authorisation, and control who has access to different files and folders within the archive. In most cases, permissions can be managed on an individual basis, meaning specific employees can be granted or denied access, depending on the nature of their job or their specific circumstances. However, beyond this, permissions can be set more broadly so that everyone in a department has access or so that managers and senior staff have access while other employees are kept away. Best in class solutions may go further, allowing files in the archive to be made 'read only' to some users but editable to other users. Ultimately, access controls and permissions can be used to restrict access to those who need it and keep prying eyes away from the most sensitive or confidential information contained within the archive.
  • Compliance management: Oversee compliance-related information and set clear rules or parameters so that the process of archiving data does not breach legislation or company policies. Through the compliance management features in archiving software, users can establish precisely which types of data should be archived and which should not. It may also be possible to set rules, so that archived data is deleted after a set period, which can help businesses to comply with data protection rules. Some of the actions that are carried out to ensure rules and regulations are being obeyed can potentially be automated, while high-end solutions may also provide integration options with dedicated compliance software, allowing users to track any issues in this area and resolve them quickly.
  • Version control and recovery: Store and access different versions of the same file, for complete version control over archived data. This ability to access past versions of a file means that old web pages or old versions of business documents can be restored on demand. Aside from this ability to restore different versions of a file, archiving software with high-quality version control features will also empower users to view any revisions or amendments that have been made to data over time. This can improve transparency within an organisation and help users to understand how the current version of a particular file came to be.

When using the Capterra archiving software directory, buyers can sort through all of the available options based on the features they contain. As a result, the list of software options can be narrowed down, and the search process can begin with a clear focus on the solutions that are most likely to be viable. This also means that businesses and other buyers can avoid wasting time exploring options that do not contain key features that are required.

What should be considered when purchasing archiving software?

When purchasing archiving software, there are several key considerations that buyers should work through. This is especially important for narrowing down the available options to the software solution most suitable for the buyer's specific needs. An effective way to approach this is to work through a series of questions, which can help to focus efforts. Moreover, the process of actually working through these questions and coming up with answers to them can more clearly define what the ideal solution looks like. Examples of some of the key questions to ask include:

  • How much does archiving software cost? Before purchasing an archiving app, it is essential to consider the cost, but this consideration needs to go deeper than the upfront price of the software. Most current archiving solutions are cloud-based and will be distributed on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis, and this means there will be ongoing subscription fees to pay. In situations where the software is not cloud-based, the upfront fee for acquiring the software licence is only one part of the equation, and buyers will also need to think about the cost of setting the software up and the cost of storing the relevant data. Yet, even beyond this, various hidden or unexpected costs can arise. Businesses, for example, need to think about how much it will cost to train employees to use the archive app effectively, while there may also be costs associated with accessing software updates or acquiring support. Therefore, buyers need to adopt a holistic approach to the issue of cost, and it is worth taking the time to analyse the total anticipated cost of ownership and continuous use.
  • Is data archiving compliant with GDPR? While archiving solutions can play a role in facilitating compliance with regulations and company policies, it is also essential that buyers consider the compliance issues that are relevant to archiving data. In addition, customer data needs to be kept secure to minimise the chances of it falling into the hands of hackers and other cybercriminals. With this in mind, it is worth exploring the various software options available and seeking those that have been designed with these compliance issues in mind.
  • What is the best deployment method? In general, with software, there are two main deployment options to choose from. On-premise deployment is the approach most buyers are familiar with, and this involves the user purchasing a software licence and then installing the software on their systems while taking responsibility for data storage and cyber security. The alternative is the cloud-based approach, with deployment occurring remotely, using cloud technology. A third-party service provider is responsible for actually deploying the software, keeping it updated, storing relevant data, and implementing security measures, and the user will generally pay an ongoing subscription fee in exchange for access to this service. While this is a straightforward choice with many software packages, the majority of modern archiving software options are cloud-based. This is because cloud-based software provides users with remote access, while storage can be easily scaled up and down, depending on how much storage space is required. Cloud-based software also has extremely low upfront costs, and the long-term costs are predictable because they usually consist only of the agreed subscription fee. Furthermore, there are still some benefits linked to on-premise deployment, including a greater sense of control, freedom for the user to implement their security measures, and the removal of long-term subscription fees. Most buyers should opt for the cloud-based approach with software in this category, but the pros and cons should be considered.
  • What types of archiving are supported? Buyers also need to consider the types of archiving that are supported by different solutions on the market and then compare this to their requirements. In particular, it should be noted that some archiving software is aimed at achieving a very specific type of archiving, with a good example of this being email archiving, while other solutions are more all-purpose. Some solutions are only able to archive files that are of a specific format, but other options can archive any data, regardless of the format. The best solutions can handle both structured and unstructured data, whereas some are only able to handle one type. Understanding these differences makes it easier for buyers to find the right solution for them.

The most significant archiving software trends must also be carefully analysed before a fully informed purchasing decision can be made. Buyers need to know that the software they invest in is up-to-date and designed with an awareness of the current and emerging trends. This also helps to guarantee that the software will remain useful for the foreseeable future rather than functioning as a short-term solution. Some of the most important trends related to archiving apps and the retention of static data are explored below:

  • Growing need for mobile access: Across software solutions of almost all kinds, a major trend that buyers need to be aware of is the growing demand for mobile access and remote access in general. For many, the days of businesses operating out of single office spaces are a thing of the past, and as companies continue to embrace concepts like remote and hybrid working, demand for mobile access to software is only going to grow further. With archiving software, some solutions may provide a dedicated mobile app, while others will provide access via mobile web browsers and cloud technology. Regardless, buyers with a need to prioritise mobile accessibility should take the time to carefully research the available options and select a solution that can be accessed on a mobile device, as well as one that has been fully optimised for use on smaller smartphones or tablet touchscreens.
  • Advanced data management needs: Modern businesses deal with more data than at any previous time in history, and this can result in those companies having far more advanced data management needs that need to be addressed by archiving solutions. Depending on the nature of the business, the precise nature of these advanced needs can differ. Some businesses increasingly need storage options that leave the data unalterable and fully time-stamped, with similar features to blockchain technology. Other organisations, however, may require advanced data editing capabilities or the need to be able to handle vast quantities of data.
  • Global rise in ransomware attacks: Finally, one of the biggest cyber security threats organisations and individuals face when storing large amounts of data is the rising issue of ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks can leave businesses unable to fully function, but they can also threaten the existence of data, especially when all company data is stored on-site. This provides another compelling argument in favour of opting for a cloud-based archiving solution. Aside from the off-site benefits of cloud storage, companies can also capitalise on third-party cyber security expertise.