Is an online backup service OK for your data stockpiles?

Is an online backup service OK for your data stockpiles?

Online data backups and e-mail archiving finally turning the storage-as-a-service dream into a business reality

Storage service evolution

Acceptance of the storage-as-a-service concept has been a long time coming. In the dot-com era, a variety of SSPs launched with the goal of providing online storage facilities for companies that couldn't develop their own storage infrastructure readily. Most SSPs, including Storability, Storage Networks and StorageWay, failed amid user skepticism about an outsider's ability to store business-critical data reliably.

A few SSPs managed to survive the bust, however, and have made the transition into the storage-as-a-service world. Two examples are PNHS subsidiary AmeriVault and Arsenal Digital Solutions, which have secured a place for themselves offering online backup and archiving. Arsenal Digital services now form the heart of IBM's storage-as-a-service offerings; IBM acquired the company in December 2007.

Besides former SSPs, storage-as-a-service providers include other longtime storage vendors and small players, too. For example, data-protection mainstay Iron Mountain became one of the first established storage companies to offer storage-as-a-service. It entered the market four years ago via acquisition, first grabbing Connected, then LiveVault. Connected provided online backup for laptops and PCs within enterprises; LiveVault aimed its services at backing up servers in the same environment.

Smaller storage-as-a-service companies, including Asigra and Robobak, offer their online backup technologies through a reseller channel of managed-service providers (MSP) and telecom companies. Asigra, for example, has expanded its Televaulting services through such MSPs as Data Store 365. Robobak, which has been offering services for remote offices and branch offices since June 2007, is building a channel through US Data Vault and Digital Fortress. IBM, though certainly not a small company, also works the managed-services channel for storage-as-a-service offerings picked up through Arsenal Digital. It offers ViaRemote for servers and PCs through its Business Continuity and Resiliency Services division and AT&T.

Last year, storage-as-a-service really started heating up. Besides EMC's acquisition of Mozy and IBM's of Arsenal Digital, HP and Symantec launched storage services of their own.

Other storage-as-a-service activity includes Autonomy's acquisition of Zantaz in July 2007 and Dell's acquisition of MessageOne, a start-up offering Microsoft Exchange server failover and e-mail archiving services. In addition, CommVault, known for its data-protection software, entered the storage-as-a-service market early this year. It offers a managed data-protection service through DBS International, Incentra Solutions and Rackspace US, as well as a remote management service.

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