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Solution providers using such appliances can offer cloud storage either with their own brand name or that of the technology developer. They can also resell a cloud storage service through other solution providers. MSPs can also add such a service to their other customer offerings.
- Access to public clouds: Public storage clouds such as Amazon Web Services or Iron Mountain feature massive amounts of available capacity that can be accessed at a low cost per gigabyte per month, typically with a very basic interface to access that capacity.
- Several software and appliance vendors, such as startup Cirtas, offer technology that provides an interface to public storage clouds with such features as backup, recovery, disaster recovery, replication and so on. Solution providers or MSPs that partner with them get access to recurring revenue via the monthly service charges, which customers pay. Customers pay for the access interface through their solution provider and contract directly with the public storage cloud provider for the required capacity.
- Hybrid local and cloud storage: Many hardware and software developers offer a combination of technologies that allow solution providers to offer both local backup appliances combined with cloud storage. In such a system, customers back up data to an appliance sitting in their own data center or server closet, which allows quick restoration or recovery of data. The data on that appliance is then backed up to a storage cloud for a second layer of protection.
- Some providers, such as i365, give solution providers the ability to set up a backup appliance at the customer's site for fast recovery of small amounts of data, another appliance at the reseller's site for backing up the first appliance's data, and a public cloud offering for backing up the second appliance's data.
- Note that, except for the most basic, direct-to-user, storage clouds, the vendors are providing solution providers with turnkey solutions that enable them to become cloud service providers with a minimum up-front investment of money and engineering expertise. This makes them suitable not only for MSPs looking to easily add storage as a part of their managed service or cloud offerings, but also for traditional solution providers looking to take their first steps toward cloud computing.
Taking Advantage Of Storage Clouds
While storage clouds are very popular for backing up data and for sharing files ranging from baby pictures to business documents, solution providers can help customers take advantage of those clouds in a variety of ways.
This is especially true for customers who have already virtualized all or part of their server infrastructures, as virtual servers can be used in cloud environments to do several storage functions.
- Disaster recovery: When all a company's data is backed up to a cloud, it can be restored to virtual or physical servers in case of a temporary or permanent failure of a primary data center. However, restoring of large file sets over the Internet can be a very long process, depending on available bandwidth, and so having the data also stored on a backup appliance or a small storage cloud at the solution provider's site with the ability to restore locally is a good option for many customers.
- Test environments: Testing new applications eventually requires the use of real customer data, which can result in the temporary use of expensive hardware. A storage cloud provides the needed capacity for testing on a temporary basis.
- Data and file sharing: Storage clouds can be used to keep files and data available to multiple users when protected with encryption and passwords.