When someone refers to a computer archive, he or she usually is referring to a specific type of Internet archiving. This type of Internet archiving saves a snapshot of the index page of a website. However, it can also mean another type of Internet archiving in which posts or entries on a website are categorized and archived.
Creating an archive of a website's index pages can have many benefits. First, the website's history is documented and can be recalled at will. This can show researchers how the website has evolved through time. Legally, a computer archive might also be able to help those involved in legal disputes by serving as evidence. A computer archive can retain a lot of content, such as text, that would have been lost without the archive's effort to capture and store the website's index page.
Computer archives can also function within an individual website. If a website owner uses a particular software that encourages the act of archiving, like popular blogging software, a computer archive can be established with little to no effort on the part of the website owner. These post or entries might be automatically archived according to date or category after a specific amount of time or when the website owner manually designates them as being archive material. Some software allows users to edit posts or entries so that dates or categories are changed or added and archiving can take place.
An index page can be recalled through the use of a computer archive, but elements of the pages might not function as if they were on a live website. For example, links might be broken, audio can malfunction, and images might not show properly. The same can be said for video or other streaming content that requires a user's computer to connect to a host. Without a live host, content can remain inactive. When confronted with these types of limitations, users are reminded that a computer archive can really just be a library full of website captures, rather than a directory of functional websites.
A computer archive usually is collected and maintained by parties not intimately associated with the websites that they archive. Typically, the archivists are third parties who simply want to record the Internet's or a website's history. A computer archive can function and serve much like a digital library. It might even acquire regular patrons in the form of scholars, researchers or the general, curious public.