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 Data Deduplication
Data Deduplication
Put simply, Data Deduplication is a process which saves space on storage devices (such as hard drives) by transparently removing any duplicated data stored on it. It can be achieved in one of three ways (or more accurately at one of three levels); at the File Level, at the Block Level, or at the Byte Level. For the purpose of this article, we shall ignore Byte Level Deduplication.

File Level is the simplest and cheapest form of Deduplication, replacing identical files with pointers. After Deduplication, files appear to be in more than one place on the storage device, but are in fact only being stored once. This can be especially useful for storing backups, since most files being backed up by Small Businesses don't change daily. We offer three backup solutions, one for home use, and two for business use, all of which employ File Level Deduplication.

Although File Level Deduplication is very effective when dealing with identical files, it's completely useless when dealing with large files which change regularly; Virtual Hard Drives and Outlook pst files for example. Because parts of these files change from day to day, File Level Deduplication has no effect on them since they are not identical. In such cases Block Level Deduplication is required which is able to deduplicate the identical parts of files.

So why use File Level Deduplication rather than Block Level Deduplication? Unfortunately, the hardware requirements for Block Level Deduplication usually make it prohibitively expensive for Small Businesses. Back in May we investigated using FreeNAS to solve the problem, but found it ran an older version of ZFS which does not support Deduplication. As always, we continue to search for ways to bring the latest technology and innovations to our clients at a price they can afford.

UPDATE : Windows 8 Server, due to be released in late 2012, will have Block Level Deduplication built-in, although it will be Post-Process Deduplication rather than In-Line Deduplication, thus requiring a lot of spare capacity when using it for backups.
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