Hewlett-Packard this week said it would end its Upline online storage service. The decision comes on the heels of other online storage service closures, including the Yahoo Briefcase service that Yahoo said would close on March 30.
But even as HP and Yahoo prepare to shutter their services, which are designed to offer consumers and small businesses a way to back up, recover and share data, others are entering the market.
Storage and security vendor Symantec, for instance, in March plans to enter the consumer online storage service business.
This would be in addition to Symantec's current business-oriented service called Symantec Protection Network, which it unveiled about a year ago as its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.
HP's Upline service was based on its acquisition early last year of Opelin. The company originally rolled out the Upline service last March, but immediately had issues with data getting lost.
However, an HP spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said, "HP continually evaluates product lines and has decided to discontinue the HP Upline service on March 31, 2009. HP will no longer be backing up customer files to the HP Upline servers as of Feb. 26, 2009, at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. HP will keep the file restore feature of the Upline service operational through March 31, 2009, Pacific Time, in order for customers to download any files that have been backed up to Upline."
At the Upline Web site, visitors who try to sign up for a trial of the service get this message: "Thank you for your interest in Upline. Registration is temporarily unavailable. Please provide your e-mail address if you would like us to follow up with you."
HP's former competitors in the online storage space said they are not surprised to see HP close its Upline service.
David Friend, CEO of Carbonite, a Boston-based online storage service provider, said that when HP acquired Opelin, he was confused.
"I thought, 'What the heck is a hardware company doing in the services business?' " Friend said. "It's nice to have backup for their PCs, but they didn't have the expertise to run the service."
People may think running an online backup service is easy because backing up data on a PC is easy, Friend said.
"But the problem comes when you start to scale," he said. "Every day, we get over 100 million new files. We have 100,000 to 500,000 computers sending us data at any one time. It's like a fire hose."
It is hard for most people to imagine how many users may use a service like online storage, Friend said. "You literally outgrow every piece of software you work with. Nothing was designed to work at petabytes of data scales. Last I looked, we had 30 billion files backed up."
Shekar Vembu, CEO and founder of Vembu, an India-based provider of online backup storage that works with solution providers, wrote in an e-mailed response to a question from Channelweb.com that online backup is not something like Skype, which can be installed and it just works.
"Backups by [their] very nature require monitoring, management and administration to ensure everything goes smoothly. So any large vendor who gets into online backup services thinking that you just sign up a large number of customers and then everything can be put on auto pilot is completely mistaken," Vembu wrote.
For that reason, Vembu has never offered online backup services directly to end customers, Vembu wrote. "Our business model is to partner with MSPs and VARs who already provide IT services to their SMB customers. These local MSPs and VARs, because of their proximity to their customers, are in the best position to offer backup services."