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Several companies, ranging from small service providers to giants like Google, are looking at ways to help customers large and small store more of their data online, and less on tape and even hard drives.
One of those online storage providers, eFolder, is unique in its channel-only approach to the business in that it started out as a solution provider.
EFolder does not deal directly with customers for a simple reason, said John Williams, president of the Atlanta-based company. "We've been in the channel since the '70s," he said. "So we decided to go to the channel with this."
EFolder helps solution providers and MSPs serving mainly small and midsize businesses provide online data backups to their clients.
Partners can resell the service, with the back-end backup capacity provided by eFolder, or they can license eFolder's technology and provide the service directly to their customers, Williams said. In either case, the channel partner provides the service with its own brand name, not the eFolder name, he said.
For many of eFolder's channel partners, the ability to put their own names on the service is an especially important feature.
Laura Steward, managing partner at Guardian Angel Computer Services, a Norwalk, Conn.-based MSP that has been working with eFolder since it first came to market, said that the ability to put her company's brand on the eFolder service is critical.
"As a service provider, we want to show customers our name," Steward said. "We don't want to show the back end. We can tell customers about the back end, but we want our brand all over it. And it's unique to eFolder that we can get our brand even down to the desktop PC. If customers send an e-mail for support, it goes to us, not to eFolder. The client only sees us."
It is very important for smaller customers, said Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based MSP that offers services to customers under the iSafe name.
"We labeled eFolder's service under iSafe," Alvarez said. "Customers buy from us because of us, not because we work with a particular vendor."
EFolder offers policy-based online backup capabilities to its solution providers, which can apply it to everything from a client's laptop PC to an entire company. "Customers can mix policies, such as, 'Don't ever back up MP3 files, limit PST files to 10 days and so on,' " Williams said. "I don't know of anybody else who can do this."
The online data is stored using Sun Microsystems hardware and the Solaris operating system at a co-location facility in Atlanta, with a second facility to come online in Salt Lake City next month. Williams said that the system is architected so that there is only a 1 in 4 quintillion chance of losing a 2-Kbyte block of data.
All data sent to eFolder's online storage system is automatically encrypted. "There's no choice in that," Williams said.
EFolder's software lets users and their solution providers set the number of days during which data is active, and then push it to archival data, Williams said.
Backups can be done for both static and open files using the VSS capability of Microsoft's Windows Server operating system, Williams said. The company also allows versioning of the data at the file level so that data can be recovered to specific points in time if needed, he said.
Solution providers can work with eFolder at one of four levels. At the Silver level, they pay a one-time sign-up fee to help cover part of the cost of training and branding with their own name, and in return get recurring revenue of 25 percent of the cost of the service.
At the Gold level, partners pay a one-time fee of $500, and in return qualify for margins of between 50 percent and 60 percent. They can also go Platinum for an up-front fee of $2,500, and get margins of between 80 percent and 85 percent.