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Alvarez Technology has signed up about 30 clients in the past 12 months to its iSave service, which is its branded version of the eFolder service. Those clients range in size from five or fewer desktop PCs to up to 50 PCs, Alvarez said.
The MSP also passes customers looking for a simple, low-cost backup and restore service to companies like Boston-based Carbonite Inc. Alvarez said he is always evaluating other on-line backup services, such as the Symantec Protection Network from Symantec Corp., Cupertino, Calif. "We're looking at them because of their brand name, and their introductory price is in line with eFolder's," he said.
Truistic Solutions, a nine-employee Houston-based managed IT service provider, got involved with online storage because customers, most of whom have 25 to 75 employees, began to realize the value of it, said Mike Daniel, vice president and COO.
"They all want to get away from tape," Daniel said. "After the big hurricanes almost three years ago, everyone decided they need to be prepared, so our business took off."
Truistic works with another hosted storage provider, Houston-based Terian Solutions LLC, but provides the service to customers under its own TruCare brand. "If we need to change providers, we don't have to worry about the name," Daniel said. "We may sometimes have to offer a different solution based on customer needs."
A growing number of vendors offer online backup, recovery, archiving and protection services. They can generally be divided into several categories.
The first are smaller companies that only offer technology to let others build a Storage as a Service business, or who have that feature as part of their data protection software.
The second category are tier-one storage vendors, most of which have recently acquired the necessary technology and are now looking for new ways to get revenue from customers.
A third category of vendors includes companies that have traditionally focused on the consumer and small-business market with lower-cost technology that is typically offered direct, but which may also go through resellers.
Solution providers looking to offer Storage as a Service can work with one or more of these and other vendors in a couple of different ways.
Those with their own hosted infrastructures that include a large amount of storage capacity can license the technology and software from a vendor and offer their own end-to-end hosted online storage service.
Other solution providers can contract with the technology vendor or a third-party hosted storage provider to handle the back end, while the solution provider deals with customers. In this case, they can either offer a service branded by the vendor, or work with the vendor to rebrand the service to fit the solution provider's other services.
Several vendors allow customers to back up data to both a local storage device and to the remote site simultaneously, a feature that solution providers say is very important.
The move to offer a local storage option stems from the fact that lost or corrupted files can be restored from an on-site storage device faster than they can from online. While some provide the local storage device, others provide the connection to customers' existing storage devices.
Combs said his customers often back up data to a low-cost USB hard drive as part of the eFolder service. "So if they lose a file, they can restore it from their $110 to $120 USB hard drive," he said. "It's not their main backup, but it does fast restores."
Guardian Angel's Steward said that local backup is a must-have, not an option, for her customers. "Our customers do pretty much what we tell them to do," she said.
Going forward, the online Storage as a Service business can only grow because customers' storage requirements can only grow, Daniel at Truistic said.
"Individuals and businesses are creating a lot of digital content," he said. "There has to be a point at which the cost of online storage is so low that customers will want to store all their files online. For instance, one of my law firm customers is now transitioning its paper files to an online warehouse. It's looking at ways to keep all its data online forever."
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