Archive – A storage repository for little-accessed data that needs to be retained for a long time. The key difference from a backup is that a backup is a copy of the original data from which the original data can be restored, as in restoring a virtual machine. An archive is created by moving data to the storage media, not copying it. Also information is retrieved from an archive and content description metadata is needed to facilitate this. That is generally part of archive system software which is used to manage and operate the archive.

Storage tiers diagram drawn by Fred Moore, of Horison information Systems.

Archived data is best stored on cheap and durable offline storage media, such as tape, which lowers its costs compared to keeping data online in constantly powered disk drives or SSDs. Generally, archive data does not need fast access. An archive vault can be front-ended with a disk or SSD cache to provide faster access to the metadata describing the archive and its contents. Such an archive system may be described as an active archive.