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Ease of management is key to minimizing the VTL's total cost of ownership, and includes everything from the clarity of the user interface to the ability to easily view and manage groups of VTLs from a single console. Specific features to consider are how easy it is to access all VTLs in a group through a single sign-on, and the ability to view a consolidated report for all the systems and make simultaneous changes in common configuration settings.

Security wasn't a key requirement cited by users or analysts because VTLs are generally used in data center environments, which are regarded as secure. Security becomes more important when data leaves the data center stored on tape, so most users say they perform encryption at the tape library and not the VTL. However, some vendors, such as FalconStor and Sepaton Inc., do offer encryption in their VTLs.

Depending on whether a VTL is used along with or as a replacement for tape, users might need it to write directly to or read directly from a physical tape. While most VTLs can import and export tape, says ESG's Whitehouse, another important consideration is whether the backup software's catalog is updated to reflect any changes in the data stored on the VTL so backup administrators can more easily track the location of the backed up data.

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This was first published in August 2008

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