As contractors find themselves in the middle of storage projects, they find themselves in conversations with some not-too-familiar terms. “Dedupe” is one storage topic everyone needs to be familiar with.

Data deduplication, commonly referred to as “dedupe,” is becoming increasingly popular, as storage creates redundant (or duplicate) data. While storing data is the point, storing multiple copies of essentially the same data has become an unwelcome and costly side effect. This primarily software-driven process seeks out duplicate copies of data and deletes all of the extra copies. One copy is left behind so that it is always accessible.

The part to remember is that—because all that excess data took up so much space in the first place—using dedupe reduces overall storage requirements.

As the newest technology on the “storage” block, there are a variety of solutions aimed at providing dedupe. Data Domain has been one of the more visible players in the dedupe world. When Data Domain became a publicly traded company in June, they did so with the symbol “DDUP.” Other key players include Diligent, FalconStor, Avamar, Symantec and Atempo.

Who needs this and why?

As with all new technology, people adopt it to say that they have the latest solution. But dedupe is not free and is financially feasible only for those with a few terabytes of data sitting around to be backed up.

Another interesting aspect is that some virtual tape libraries (VTL) now include dedupe embedded within as a feature. The most common way of backing up data in the past had been using tape. But the decreasing costs associated with disks have made disk-based solutions more appealing, and VTL uses technology to create disk-based backups that operate as though they are tape-based.

VTL had been garnering support and amassing a large user base until dedupe appeared. The benefits of dedupe have caused interest, and many users now are seeking out storage solutions that also include dedupe.

Because the technology is new, many are just not sure what these dedupe products can actually do. Most people can agree that, with regard to dedupe, test-driving a solution before buying is important. In fact, a lot of end-users dealing with dedupe solutions are in what many refer to as the test or lab phase. Once satisfied, those users move to the production phase (the full-blown, paid-for version).

There are ample intricacies associated with dedupe, and there are a multitude of options and choices. As it stands, only those heavily involved are able to decipher just what dedupe can and cannot do.

Here is a good entry point for contractors. Electrical contractors that have been partnering up with storage specialists can work with them when this particular subject comes up.

Though storage is a niche business, it continues to grow in presence and popularity. Storage, not unlike other systems, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding fundamentals, such as the names and basics of new technology, can help contractors stay ahead of the curve, since so many turn to them for guidance on all information technologies these days.

For those contractors already working with niche specialists, such as storage companies, the best bet is to start learning about dedupe and how contractors can best become involved in such projects. Even software-based solutions such as dedupe require adequate infrastructures to support them. As always, that points right back to contractors that make sure the cabling systems are up to par to support of these great new technologies.     EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at