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Wink Wink, Nod Nod: Should We Tell The Truth About Data Deduplication? (Backup, Archive and Disaster Recovery)

“Yes, of course,” my mother and father would say in regard to the question of whether or not we should tell the truth. My children would say the same as would just about everyone I know. In competitive situations, though, the general consensus is that we should hold back some truths and wave our hands really fast at incoming truth that might derail a deal.

Does Santa deliver coal with the same wink and nod as he does with the toy train? Do the consequences of telling the truth really matter?

What makes up the hidden truths compared to the open consequences in the communication between customers and sales folks regarding data protection? Well, pick your arena.

Are we talking about backup, or archive or disaster recovery? The truth appears hard to pin down. For instance, “Back up only the stuff you need to get back,” and, “Backup everything, because you can’t know what you need until it’s gone.” Or, how about, “Backup servers are not production, so you can use older equipment and hold off upgrading,” compared to, “Backup requires the most processing power in the datacenter in order to match the restore speeds of your fastest operations.” I love this one the most, though: “Archives sit dormant for so long that you can never expect to really retrieve anything after three years,” and, “The penalty of lost dollars and non-compliance in retrieving archives demands tested consistency to assure data viability and timely access for as many years as necessary.”

Can all of these statements that so blatantly conflict with each other be true?

It’s my contention that in the area of data protection the lackadaisical statement is usually based upon a false premise, and the more difficult demand almost always rings true.

Companies that come roaring onto the scene with “don’t worry about it” promises and less-than-complete solutions are going to create both worry and incompleteness.

Those folks who describe that their product doesn’t do certain things, “because you don’t need that,” more than likely are waving their hands to get away from a truth. I know this from experience. We’ve run into folks who have waved away our STORServer capability to back up a file only once because we use a true relational database architecture that eliminates continual copying. That architecture is very hard to develop. I also know that when STORServer talked down deduplication when we didn’t have it, we hadn’t properly studied the larger advantages of cross-system and full pool deduplication.

In the aforementioned “backup once architecture,” STORServer purposely did not duplicate, and so we were convinced that customers were wasting their time purchasing this functionality.

Now that we have data deduplication and have measured the 50 percent storage savings (or more), we understand the customer interest and advantages. For one full year, when we’d received the message, we had to fully disclose to customers that we did not have deduplication.

The truth hurt, but we let our customers know the truth.

So, what about the truth in the less complicated sales pitch? What if, in fact, most companies don’t care about archived data over three years, are willing to accept slower restores from older or less powerful backup equipment, or would rather decide to back up only certain items rather than everything? The difference is the transparency of what gets communicated to a customer. When we told our customers that we didn’t have deduplication, we still sold STORServer Backup Appliances. Those larger customers, even those with knowledge of our “no duplication” design, still needed to shave off more storage than we could offer. They had to decide to take our product with its limitations.

As long as the customer knows the “trade-off,” they can apply the capabilities to their own needs. And, sometimes, a customer’s need is simply budgetary. Even if they know that their budgetary decision is short-sighted, they are making a knowledge-based decision.


That transfer of knowledge—the transparency of capabilities and consequences—are both what make the difference in telling the truth.

When Santa Claus gives a wink and a nod before heading up the chimney, he’s giving full disclosure. In effect, the truth is that we got coal because we made decisions or got the toy train because we went the extra mile to do the right thing.

We get what we plan for as long as we get good knowledge and transparent consequences.


By John Pearring, manager of sales and marketing for STORServer. As STORServer’s president from 1995 to 2008, he built the original OEM alliances and the original e-business infrastructure for the company. https://www.storserver.com

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