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Editorial: Backing up garbage

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It's time to come clean. You've been handling a lot of garbage lately--in fact, you've been increasing the amount of garbage in the environment. And it's an issue that strikes close to home because it's your storage environment.

Every company is coping with almost out-of-control data growth, which puts a strain on primary storage resources, but it's usually most profoundly felt in the backup process. Whether you're using disk in your backups or not (and you should be), it's likely taking longer and longer to back up your company's data. And the longer it takes, the more likely it becomes that there's little time to do any restoration testing. If you're not confidant you can restore, your company's data may not be as protected as it needs to be.

Along with those contracts, spreadsheets, research reports and so on, there's a vast amount of crud building up in your primary storage systems. This detritus includes the usual suspects: old business files that haven't been useful since Jimmy Carter was president, test data from that 1998 database conversion project, as well as personal files like the MyResume.doc file that's in every user share, photos of last year's Dollywood vacation, Kanye West's latest MP3 download and YouTube videos of assorted fraternity pranks. No offense to Dolly and Kanye, but that stuff is junk and it's clogging up your system and making backup a lot harder--and riskier--than it should be.

Compression and deduplication

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applications do a great job of squeezing the air out of your data and ensuring that you back up a file only once. But as long as the garbage is still mixed in with the good, the best you'll end up with is skinnier, more unique garbage.

The diagnosis is simple: You have to get the garbage out of your system and your backup process. But the remedies aren't so simple.

You could start charging your business groups, with fees based on how much data they back up. That might be a deterrent and get the business units to police themselves, but if they're flush, they'll probably just shell out the extra bucks and your backup problem will be as big as ever.

This was first published in September 2007

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