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Many companies have complex information systems with a growing amount of unstructured data - information that isn't organized into fixed categories. Databases have built-in tools for understanding and managing structured data. However, managing unstructured data - including migrating it to new storage equipment, backing it up, maintaining user access to material, and keeping information to satisfy governmental regulatory requirements - is a challenge. The current approaches - which entail manually moving files and examining the information they contain to determine how best to handle them - are not adequate for coping with the exploding quantity of unstructured data. Because of this, companies are turning to a new file-management approach: the file area network. A FAN is a set of technologies that organize, route, switch, replicate, and otherwise handle files over networks, all without interrupting user access to information, thereby providing a flexible, intelligent, cost-effective platform to move and manage data.