Data is the lifeblood of business. Organizations heavily rely on data to make key decisions, retain customers, improve customer service, enhance marketing strategies, win new clients and predict business growth. Therefore, data backup and protection are vital for organizations to stay competitive in this complex business climate.

As an MSP, your clients rely on you to securely back up their rapidly growing and dispersed data stored on-premise, on remote workstations and in the cloud. Understanding the concept of data deduplication and its application will help you improve efficiency of your backup storage, increase network bandwidth and deliver reliable services to your clients at a reduced cost.

What Data Deduplication Means?

Data deduplication is the process of identifying and removing redundant copies of information from a dataset. Deduplication or dedupe in short, helps to optimize storage capacity and improves efficiency. In backup, data deduplication is sometimes referred to as intelligent compression, single-instance storage, commonality factoring or data reduction.

What Is Data Deduplication Designed for?

Data deduplication as the name suggests, is designed to remove duplicate data. It’s not a new concept and its existence can be traced back to the 1970s when data entry clerks had to manually scan each data line by line to spot and eliminate duplicates. Data deduplication was born of a need to store massive amount of data without having to use an equally massive storage space.

Today, data is growing at an exponential rate and data deduplication technologies have evolved to keep pace with the rapid change. New solutions available today automates deduplication and enables quicker data backup and restoration.

Why Removing Duplicate Data Is Important?

Duplicate data is a challenge that every organization must deal with constantly. You may not notice the negative impacts of duplicate data immediately; however, ignoring it can result in not just financial loss but damaged brand reputation as well. Duplicate data accumulated over time can occupy considerable amount of precious space in your storage, resulting in wastage of space and money. Duplicate data also results in poor data quality, inaccurate analytics and can have a significant impact on customer service.

Eliminating duplicate data will help you stay compliant with regulations, improve data quality, save costs, and enable better storage allocation and faster recovery of your backups.

Deduplication and Compression

Data deduplication and compression are often misunderstood to be the same thing. However, they are two different technologies and are designed for different purposes. Data deduplication scans and removes duplicate copies of data within a data set to improve storage utilization. It prevents duplicate data from occupying additional storage space, thereby gaining more room for unique data.

TechTarget explains data compression as “a reduction in the number of bits needed to represent data. Compression is performed by a program that uses a formula or algorithm to determine how to shrink the size of the data.”

Difference Between Deduplication and Compression

Deduplication eliminates repeated data and retains only a single copy of the data without losing any critical information. Compression on the other hand, restructures or manipulates data, which reduces its size. Compressed data takes up less storage space than it actually would in its original form. The key difference between data deduplication and compression is that compression operates with a file or a set of files while data deduplication works with data at the block level and removes redundant blocks.

Data deduplication and compression are similar in a way that both these methods aim to optimize storage capacity.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Data Deduplication

While data deduplication is a reliable backup technique, it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Data Deduplication

  • Better Storage Allocation: Since data deduplication eliminates redundant data and stores only a single copy, it greatly reduces the amount of storage requirements. This allows you to gain maximum retention period for your backups while reducing the cost of on-premise and cloud backup storage.
  • Internet Bandwidth Optimization: Running data deduplication at source reduces the amount of data that needs to be transferred to offsite cloud locations. Not only does this keep your data in sync but also reduces the amount of bandwidth that needs to be dedicated for offsite backup sync.
  • Saves Costs: Data deduplication enables efficient storage allocation, freeing up space for more files and backups. This increases the time frame between the purchase of storage devices, thereby saving you significant amount of money over time.
  • Faster Recovery: By removing duplicate copies, deduplication helps in effective utilization of storage devices and increases network bandwidth, resulting in faster recovery of your backups.

Disadvantages of Data Deduplication

For data deduplication methods utilizing hash functions, there is a risk of data corruption if two dissimilar data create the same hash value. There is also risk of data corruption if the referenced data goes wrong. In such cases, all the data that points to the referenced data will follow suit.

Different Types of Data Deduplication Techniques

Several techniques are used to deduplicate redundant copies and each of these techniques has different functions. Some of the commonly used deduplication methods include:

File-Level Vs Block-Level

File-level deduplication checks for multiple identical files at a file level and stores only one unique file while linking the similar files to the unique file.

Block-level deduplication works with data blocks to examine if redundant block already exists. And if it does, only original data is stored, and the subsequent copies are linked to the original copy. Whenever a file is altered or modified, it saves only the data that has been modified, even if it’s a minor update.

Server-Side Vs Client-Side

In server-side deduplication, the data deduplication process occurs on the server once the data is backed up. Whereas in client-side, the data deduplication process occurs both on the server as well as the backup-archive client during the backup process.

Source-Based Vs Target-Based

Source-based deduplication technique eliminates similar blocks at the source (client or server level) before sending the data over the network to a target backup.

Target-based approach is used to reduce duplicate data on a target device. In this technique, backups are sent over the network to a target storage medium where data deduplication occurs.

Inline Vs Post-Processing

Inline deduplication analyzes for redundant blocks of data while the data is being written to the backup device. With this approach, duplicate copies are eliminated as they enter the storage environment. In post-processing, data deduplication takes place after the data is written to the backup device. Once duplicate data blocks are eliminated, they are replaced with a pointer to the first iteration of the block.

Global Vs Custodial

Global deduplication technique analyzes both the exactness as well as the digital fingerprint of a data to remove redundant copies. For instance, a PDF file is created with the exact data in Word document; although their file formats are different, the content is exactly the same.

In custodial deduplication, only redundant data within a custodian’s data set is removed. For instance, Custodian 1 has 10 similar copies of Data A, nine of those redundant copies will be eliminated and only one will be stored. And even if Custodian 2 has the exact copy of Data A, it will not be removed even though it is the exact copy of Custodian 1.

Data Deduplication for MSPs

There has been a rapid increase in the amount of data being generated and used. Data now exists in more places than it did before — on on-premises servers, in the cloud and in remote workforces’ machines. This also means an increase in the number of duplicate data, which can take up a great chunk of your storage medium if neglected. As an MSP, understanding data deduplication and how it can be used for backups will help you get the most out of your storage solution, enable faster backup and restoration, and save you time and money.

Manage Your Clients’ Backups Efficiently With Unitrends MSP

Unitrends MSP uses state-of-the-art deduplication techniques not found in other backup solutions, which drastically reduces the cost you spend on backups and greatly increases your margins. We can help you securely back up and efficiently manage your clients’ data no matter where it lives — on-premises or in the cloud. Unitrends MSP simplifies backup and recovery by bringing together enterprise-class backup, ransomware detection and cloud-based business continuity into a powerful, unified continuity platform. Purpose-built for MSPs, our robust yet easy-to-use solution allows you to manage, monitor and report on all of your customers’ backups from one simple portal.