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With an ever-increasing data volume but by no means an ever-increasing IT budget, businesses are facing a tough task in optimising their storage. Most believe that deduplicating redundant copies was the storage saviour.A CNMEA investigates the trend of eliminating cloned data.

Technology moves fast and traditional deduplication solutions have had their capabilities pushed by the advent of mobility and big data in recent years. So, how can companies take advantage of the big data trend while maximising storage capabilities and keeping critical data secure? What about deduplication?

"Data deduplication works by replacing multiple copies of identical files or file system blocksA by pointers to a single version. If you're backing up several Windows 2012 servers, for example, the core operating system files on each server are identical. In theory, data deduplication can lower the amount of data stored and transferred, which can reduce the amount of storage and bandwidth needed for back-ups, at the cost of increased processing overhead," says Mike Robinson, Senior Solution Marketing Manager, NetIQ.

Arun Chandrasekaran, Research Director, Data Centre Infrastructure and Operations, Gartner, adds, "The additional benefits of deduplication include its positive impact on disaster recovery (DR), because less network connectivity is required, since each input/output (I/O) operation carries a larger data payload. Or data may be copied over the network more frequently, as the traffic impact may be minimised due to the reduction in data."

With mobility being one of the major trends in IT over the past few years, and cloud storage beginning to really take off in the Middle East, companies are shifting and sending data more frequently due to the availability of connectivity and options for transferring it. As Allen Mitchell, Senior Technical Account Manager, MENA, CommVault Systems, explains, it's adding a challenging new dimension to dealing with data storage.

"With the variety of devices available, this can prove challenging. With BYOD growing in popularity, IT departments need to react and provide effective data management solutions while at the same time ensure that the loss of any device does not compromise or pose any security threat. As this market space grows, enterprise software providers are developing interfaces to improve access to, and the recovery of, data to mobile devices."

Deduplication can also assist with disaster recovery, as the experts say, by reducing the storage footprint relative to the actual amount of data. This sizeable reduction in data considerably reduces the bandwidth required for replicating the data. Existing networks can be used for making the data available at the disaster recovery site without delay. "Thus eliminating the need for transferring data on a physical medium, like tape, and making disaster recovery practical and affordable," says Aamir Saleem, Pre-Sales Manager of Backup Recovery Systems, EMC Middle East.

Savitha Bhaskar, General Manager, Condo Protego adds, "Deduplication is all about retention and space optimisation. If you're dealing with back-up data, you can retain far more data than before on disk. This can have considerable benefits when you need to recover critical data."

Deduplication ultimately makes it easier to move and store critical information, which is essential to a disaster recovery strategy. Data deduplication solutions are often integrated with a disk-based back-up system. This, is turn, provides a method of automating back-up operations, which reduces human error and frees up IT resources during disaster recovery scenarios.

"However, designing such policies requires a mix of not just technological solutions but also business sense. Knowing where to implement deduplication at the network layer, and when it is cost-effective to do so, is paramount for enterprises in assisting with disaster recovery. Data deduplication is only part of the solution as it still needs to fit within an overall data protection approach that covers all aspects of storage risk and recovery," states Aad Dekkers, Marketing Director EMEA, EVault, A Seagate Company.

This may be a trend worth getting on board with, then, when we consider what the major consequences of network downtime are. IT has never before found itself in a position of such high priority within its business, and so these technologies become increasingly important.

As Praveen U., Senior Systems Engineer, Emitac, explains, the consequences of disaster and downtime go beyond productivity.

"Today's businesses are extremely dependent on IT. While the direct impact of downtime is loss of business, reduced productivity and damaged credibility, there are also indirect losses like lost customers and lost opportunities."

As well as this, you're at a risk of loss of valuable personnel, information and infrastructure, risk of business loss and employee productivity.

And Robinson adds, "There are obviously hard costs to downtime; if you're an online retailer and you're down for a day, you probably lose that day's sales. Your customers aren't likely to wait around until you're back up and running and hold their orders until then. But that's often just the tip of the iceberg. Any lost data comes with its own set of costs."

So, with what appears to be a cost effective and desirable solution, what are businesses here in the Middle East thinking? Many organisations believe it's a difficult statistic to estimate.

"Adoption of dedupliation continues to grow in the region as organisations look for effective methods of managing data growth, while controlling costs. The technology has matured and, with proven business benefits, deduplication is fast becoming the accepted standard for all disk-based back-ups," claims Mitchell.

Hussam Ahmad Al Ghouj, Data Protection Sales Leader, Systems and Technology Group, GBM, says, "The Middle East has shown remarkable growth in the storage market in the last decade, and it has strong demand for data storage products in the last couple of years. This growing demand on data storage in the growing IT market in the Middle East made companies look for storage TCO for the long term, and this results in more focus on the technologies of data compression and deduplication to maximise the benefit of the data storage products."

Deduplication has, for many years, been seen as a technology that is available only for larger enterprises. But experts and vendors alike believe that now is the time for smaller and medium-sized businesses to have their day in the sun and begin to benefit from this technology.

Praveen U. explains, "There are a wide variety of deduplication methods available now, which the customers can choose from, depending on their environment. Even smaller companies realise the importance of data deduplication now and hence the rate of implementation is picking up faster."

Bhaskar adds, "Depublication is definitely more available and prominent than ever before, and rightly so. Data is expanding at such a rapid space that businesses of all sizes must consider their preparedness and the consequences of taking their eye off the ball."Dekkers concludes by saying that many enterprise-level organisations are actually deploying smaller solutions for an even higher cost-effective benefit.

"If you talk to most technology manufacturers or OEMs, you will find solutions for Small Business, SMBs, and so forth. Historically most large companies deploy enterprise-class solutions, and most small businesses deploy entry-level or multipurpose solutions.

However, in today's market, the lines are blurring and that is especially true in the deduplication market. We actually see many large companies choosing to go with SMB solutions from a cost perspective, and many SMBs are put off by technology marketed to them that is merely a scaled back enterprise solution."

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