How to Effectively Mitigate the Increasing Cost of Data Backup

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As any business grows, so does the volume of data that its IT staff must back up and store. NetworkWorld reports that the use of electronic communications such as e-mail is increasing 20 percent each year, and message stores are growing more than 35 percent annually.

It is evident that the need for increased bandwidth for data storage continues to rise. IT management firm mindSHIFT Technologies reports a 60 percent increase of storage required by its clients in the past three years. As this demand grows, so does the cost. How can companies mitigate the increasing cost of data backup?

One method is to use operating system policies to limit the amount of data that can be saved on shared and in-home directories on file servers. Setting limits on the capacity of file storage systems helps companies better manage the increasing amount of backup data storage. Companies need to train users how to more efficiently save documents and make educated determinations about which need to be saved.

Another policy-oriented solution is to communicate document and electronic communications policies to users. It is recommended that organizations regularly educate users about methods to decrease the size of files, ways to more efficiently archive and store information and insist that they not use company equipment for “high-byte” activities such as downloading music.

Companies also can choose to restrict user e-mail system capacity by establishing mailbox limits. With such a tremendous increase in electronic communications in recent years, e-mail storage can get out of control. Limiting each user’s e-mail capacity helps decrease the amount of storage required and pushes users to periodically review e-mails and discard those that are not essential.

According to Postini, a provider of on-demand solutions in communication security and compliance, spam makes up 90 percent of e-mail volume. This staggering statistic should be a wake-up call for companies that do not use effective spam blockers. Implementing spam control will reduce the amount of spam entering a company and will significantly reduce the amount of e-mail storage used, thereby reducing storage cost.

Companies should consider implementing a document management system to more efficiently manage the high volume of stored documents. Most document management systems are set up such that the system saves only one copy of each document, thereby limiting the amount of backup storage use. In addition, the storage system provides long-term and reliable storage for documents and will accommodate changing documents, growing volumes and advancing technology.

Finally, backup software and storage arrays that take advantage of data deduplication can help reduce the amount of data stored. Data deduplication — often called “intelligent compression” or “single-instance storage” — is a method of reducing storage needs by eliminating redundant data. With single-instance file systems, only one unique instance of the data is retained on storage media, such as disk or tape. Operating systems allocate files on hard drives in “blocks.” Arrays using this type of block-level deduplication operate below the file system, meaning they scan for duplication of the “blocks” and not the files themselves. Single-instance file systems and block-level deduplication aid in saving storage space – 20 to 70 percent in saved disk usage – and money. Without data deduplication, an e-mail with a PowerPoint attachment that is sent to 10 people is saved/archived 10 different times, increasing storage space used tenfold. With single-instance storage, the system only saves one copy, while retaining the metadata (such as recipient names) so no information is lost in the process.

The amount of information companies are required to save is only going to increase in coming years, which can partly be attributed to new regulations requiring better data and electronic communication archiving. Organizations cannot ignore the growing need for implementing cost-saving and efficient processes for backing up and storing company information.

Paul Chisholm is chairman and chief executive officer of mindSHIFT Technologies. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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