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VTL Market Grows as Options Multiply

The VHS tape has become a dinosaur in the home, and tape backup systems are slowly moving in the same direction in the enterprise. Disk storage has always been faster and more reliable than tape and recently has also become more affordable. Consequently, a growing number of companies are trading in their tape backup systems for virtual tape libraries (VTLs).

Backup storage requirements are becoming more complex. With the maturation of technologies, such as virtualization, multimedia communication, social networking, and mobility, employees are generating, accessing, and storing a growing volume of data. Also, new government regulations, such as U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Sarbanes-Oxley, require companies to track and archive corporate information for several years. With their storage requirements growing, many corporations are re-examining the best way to backup important information.

Traditionally, businesses have used tape for their backups simply because it was inexpensive, costing a fraction of disk options. However, tape can be unreliable (information is sometimes not written to it), and maintaining a tape library can be time consuming and costly (tapes need to be moved from place to place and sometimes get lost). Another problem is tape can be slow. "With storage volumes growing, companies are finding that tape backups take too long," says Fadi Albatal, senior director of marketing at Falconstor.

VTLs, which have been available since the turn of the millennium, offer better reliability, faster backups and restores, and simpler maintenance. Their cost has plummeted during the past few years, so it is not surprising that market research firm IDC found that worldwide VTL system revenues increased from $830 million in 2007 to $930 million in 2008.

But as companies move to VTLs, they must sift through a variety of buying considerations, which can determine the success or failure or their deployments. They have to make sure that they buy compatible equipment. A VTL includes a hardware component and a software element. Companies like Dell, EMC, Falconstor, HP, IBM, NetApp, Overland Storage, Quantum, Sepaton, Spectra Logic, and Sun offer hardware systems. EMC, HP, IBM, and Symantec can provide the needed software.

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