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Data footprint reduction for SMBs

For small-midsized businesses (SMBs) wanting to address power, cooling, footprint and environmental issues (known as PCFE), as well as data management issues, establishing a holistic data footprint reduction strategy is a must.

Data footprint is the impact or resulting amount of storage space required to store and protect data and copies of data for backup, business continuance (BC), disaster recovery (DR) and testing. This tip looks at how and where data footprint reduction techniques, including archiving,

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compression, deduplication and space saving snapshots can be leveraged in SMB environments.

The business and technology value proposition benefits that can be achieved through real-time data compression of actively changing data include:

• Effective storage performance with increased usable storage system capacity
• Addressed PCFE issues and off-load application servers that include databases, file servers, personal emails and a reduced footprint of virtual servers and their disks
• The ability to move more data for BC/DR in less time while reducing data traffic on congested networks
• Improved overall data management efficiency

Data footprint reduction can be done by eliminating or deleting out-dated information by moving data from primary and on-line storage to off-line, removable media such as magnetic tape for long term preservation storage.

Archiving software, management tools and target devices for SMBs are available from Brocade, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Imation, Iomega, Mimosa, NetApp, Plasmon, Prostor, Quantum, Solix, Spectra Logic, Sun, Symantec and Tek-tools.

Compression reduces the amount of storage required to hold data, resulting in a reduced data footprint. There are different types of compression, including real-time, where data is compressed and un-compressed on the fly for active and on-line data with no data loss.

Real-time compression can be performed through database applications, file systems and volume managers as well as network based appliances such as Storwize. Another variation of compression is streaming compression commonly found in magnetic tape drives and backup software along with "ZIP" software.

Yet another approach to compression is batch time delayed, where the compression of data occurs on a scheduled interval after the data has been written to disk. Time delayed compression would be a good compliment to off-line archive data where you want to further reduce your footprint for long-term space savings of in-active, non-changing data.

Data footprint reduction using data deduplication eliminates duplicate recurring files to reduce the amount of storage needed. Data Domain, EMC, Falconstor, Netapp and Quantum are addressing the backup needs of SMBs with deduplication.NetApp FlexClones, with each snapshot and subsequent copy of data for testing, quality assurance or reporting, only a subset of the data is copied resulting in a smaller physical data footprint that represents a larger logical data view.

In the big picture, 5% of data is changing, being backed-up and de-duped. That leaves 95% of the remaining active on-line data as an opportunity for reduction using real-time compression while complimenting deduplication for archive and static data scenarios.

For environments already interested in using deduplication to improve the data footprint associated with backup or duplicate data, applying real-time data compression solutions across all applications can address green related issues and boost overall data and storage management effectiveness.

Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst with the IT infrastructure analyst and consulting firm StorageIO.

This was first published in May 2008

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