Symform Announces Cooperative Storage Cloud

Symform is targeting small and midsize businesses with its technology because it is a potential customer base that traditionally has not made data protection a priority, said Kevin Brown, vice president of sales and marketing for the Seattle-based company.

While such businesses are ripe for the convenience of online data protection, the cost of such technology is still too high, Brown said.

"A customer in the 100-GB to 200-GB range is being asked to pay exorbitant prices," Brown said. "Meanwhile, service providers find that the bandwidth for online data protection is slow and performance is low, and data center costs are high."

For instance, a company can buy a 1.5-TB hard drive for about $120, Brown said. But when it comes to data protection, a common service like EMC's Mozy charges $6.95 per month for a server license and $3.95 per month for a desktop license, plus 50 cents per GB per month for the storage, making the cost of protecting 1 TB of data about $500 per month, he said.

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Other services like Iron Mountain can cost $1 per GB per month, making that 1 TB of data cost about $1,000 per month to protect, he said.

"It seems like ridiculous economics to buy a piece of hardware so cheap, and then pay so much to back it up online," he said.

Symform developed the Symform Cooperative Storage Cloud to overcome the cost-related issues of online data protection.

With the technology, Symform takes a copy of a customer's backup online, breaks the data up into 64-MB blocks, encrypts those blocks with AES-256 encryption technology, fragments those blocks into 1-MB fragments, adds 32 1-MB parity fragments for redundancy, and then scatters those 96 fragments to storage nodes around the world.

Those cloud storage nodes are actually provided by the customers of the service. Each customer designates a small part if its own storage capacity to be used as a node for storing fragments of other companies' data.

"As you distribute your data to other systems around the world, other data in encrypted fragments from other users are sent to your contribution folder," Brown said.

With other applications, a business' data is encrypted and sent to a single location, Brown said. "But with one location, there is a risk of compromising the data," he said. "And since we use 1-MB fragments, downloads and uploads are faster than normal."

Because of the way the data is encrypted and fragmented before being dispersed into a storage cloud, the security of the data is ensured, Brown said.

"To lose one block of data, you would need to have 33 simultaneous nodes with the right data go down," he said. "It's almost mathematically impossible. We also monitor the nodes, and if we see one go down, we move the fragments."

The Symform Cooperative Storage Cloud service carries an estimated street price of between $30 and $50 per month per server, regardless of the capacity of the stored data, Brown said.

Solution providers get the technology from Symform for about $15 per month per server regardless of capacity, giving partners margins of 50 percent to 100 percent, compared to 15 percent for a typical storage service, he said.

"So there's no reason any companies working with channel partners cannot have a disaster recovery plan in place," he said. "Partners get their customers protected, letting both partners and their customers sleep better at night. And we give partners a recurring revenue stream."