There’s a difference between backing up and archiving. While it sounds like you’re doing the same thing, they have different purposes. They both help prevent data loss; it’s the way they do it that matters.
What are backups intended to do?
Backups are intended to protect working data files. For example, if you’re working on a book for publication, you certainly don’t want to lose it to logical or physical damage to your hard drive. So you keep a backup on a separate external drive or online server.
If your drive crashes, you can still access the files from a different computer.
But you don’t want to back up everything on your computer. Our hard drives can store hundreds, even thousands of file that we don’t need immediate access to. If the drive must be recovered, either using data recovery software or by a data recovery lab, it becomes more time consuming. Every file on the drive will be analyzed, not just the ones we need.
That’s where archiving come into play.
What is file archiving?
File archiving is the process of removing old files from the hard drive and storing them elsewhere. For example, I often use CDs and DVDs to store older files, especially digital photos. External drives can also be used. Compressing files will save space on the archival media.
Personally, I only back up one year’s worth of data along with any older files that I access regularly. Everything else is archived. It keeps my drive clean, but still allows access if necessary.