Google Online Storage: A Small-Business Option?

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Google is poised to launch an online storage service that allows users to store documents and other files on Google's computers, but solution providers said commercial opportunities will be limited, at least initially.

"My personal opinion is there's not enough confidence for the big boys to play. I don't think they'll get small businesses turning over their data to outside vendors. Yet," said Francis Poeta, president of P&M Computers, Cliffside Park, N.J. "Google will pick up some share. The same people who will do Google [Apps] will do the storage. They'll catch maybe 5 percent of small businesses, which is a lot of people, but those people in the $1 million and above aren't going to do it."

Poeta said if customers were ready for that model, IBM and others would have established successful programs by now.

"At this point, data is a tangible asset. To turn over a tangible asset to someone else, you just don't do it yet," he said. "People will not give their assets to national organizations when they haven't done it with local organizations yet."

Other companies, such as Microsoft and Western Digital, offer online storage services, and many VARs talk about storage virtualization as a bleeding-edge technology. Some VARs express concerns about security and say the technology is too new to trust mission-critical data to.

"[Companies] barely at this point have trust to have an application run over the Net. Now you want them to turn over everything? We're not there yet," Poeta said. "It's pretty bleeding edge. The technology is not bleeding edge, the sociology of it is bleeding edge. Is the technology there? Of course. It's not a big deal where they store the data. Are people ready to relinquish control of that asset? I don't know. I don't think they are."

The service could be released as soon as a few months from now, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper also said Mountain View, Calif.-based Google plans to provide some free storage, with additional storage allotments available for a fee, which is not yet known.

Jay Tipton, vice president of Technology Specialists, Fort Wayne, Ind., said he has concerns about the security of online data storage. Since many services are new, there hasn't been enough time to find possible holes.

"My concern for clients is around [Sarbanes-Oxley] and HIPAA compliance. You're sticking proprietary information out there. How secure is it? Sticking pictures of the kids is fine, but to stick company data out there, I'd be a little hard pressed to want to do it," Tipton said.

Technology Specialists has explored online storage services, but no customers are asking for it yet, Tipton said.

Robert Dutkowsky, CEO of distributor Tech Data, Clearwater, Fla., said backing up storage is important, whether it comes from Google or a local solution provider.

"A lot of our VARs offer backup as a managed service. They don't have the brand of Google wrapped around them," Dutkowsky said. "Everybody needs to back up their technology today. A few years ago it just wasn't that important, but as technology becomes more prevalent and people use it in more important ways, people have to back things up."

In other Google storage news, Google's Gmail users may have 6 Gbytes of storage by the end of the year, as the war in the Web e-mail space heats up.

Google recently announced that it was speeding up its Infinity+1 storage plan, an initiative that had been adding more than 1 Mbyte of storage per hour to a user's free capacity.

"At that time, we realized we'd never reach infinity, but we promised to keep giving Gmail users more space as we were able. That said, a few of you are using Gmail so much that you're running out of space, so to make good on our promise we're announcing we are speeding up our counter and giving out more free storage," said Rob Siemborski, Gmail engineer, writing in one of Google's corporate blogs.

It seems the acceleration plan has geared down again to previous levels, but not before Gmail caught up to rival Microsoft's Hotmail. Last August, Microsoft set the 5-Gbyte bar for Hotmail users by more than doubling its previous storage limit per user. Gmail was launched in 2004 with a 1-Gbyte capacity and a year later announced the storage acceleration program.

Jennifer Lawinski contributed to this story.

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