Symform Claims Lowest Cloud Storage Pricing

Cloud storage developer Symform on Tuesday released details of its flat-fee pricing scheme as a way to show the cost advantage of its technology for distributing customer data as secure chunks across the Internet.

Symform said its corporate pricing program gives business customers secure storage in the cloud at a price of only one-thirtieth to one-half that of its competitors, said Jeff O’Mara, interim vice president of marketing for the Seattle-based company.

Symform until now has been keeping quiet about its corporate prices, but is doing so now as a way to help its channel partners present the offering to business customers, O’Mara said.

Symform's pricing advantage stems from its technology, which uses a decentralized storage model as opposed to typical storage clouds which require a centralized storage infrastructure, O’Mara said.

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Symform's Resilient Storage Architecture provides cloud storage by breaking up the data of one customer and spreading it across storage capacity contributed by other customers in such a way that it is not only encrypted, but also gives someone who accesses some of that data only a tiny part.

Bassam Tabbara, CTO and co-founder of Symform, said that his company's technology 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, and then fragments those blocks into 1-MB fragments. To those 64 1-MB fragments are added another 32 1-MB parity fragments for redundancy. Those 96 fragments are then scattered across storage nodes around the world.

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

"We provide redundancy, as the entire data set is not subject to power going out or a disaster in a single location," he said. "Customers also get security because no single entity has access to the 64 fragments. And even if someone brought those fragments together, they would still need to be decrypted."

In addition, with Symform's Cloud Control software, if there is a drive failure or if a storage device drops out of the network, Symform automatically recover and rebuild the fragments, Tabbara said.

Each customer has to carve out capacity on its own storage infrastructure for exclusive use of Symform for storing fragments from other Symform customers, O’Mara said.

"If you want to store 10 TBs in the cloud, you need to offer 10 TBs of local storage," he said. "Remember, local storage is very, very cheap. A 2-TB hard drive costs $80

Symform is able to keep its costs low because it is using its customers' storage space to form the cloud instead of building its own storage infrastructure, O’Mara said.

As a result, a company with up to 50 employees and two servers can expect to pay $1,800 per year for the storage cloud with capacity to handle the data from the servers and any number of desktops or laptops, O’Mara said.

By comparison, he said customers could expect to spend $3,500 per year from Acronis, $40,000 a year for the MozyPro service, and $60,000 per year for service from Iron Mountain.

For up to 1,000 employees and 50 servers, a company could expect to pay $24,000 for a year of cloud storage service from Symform, compared to $75,000 from Acronis, $900,000 from MozyPro, and $1.4 million from Iron Mountain.

Next: Mozy Responds

Those prices are based on published prices, but do not include any discounts. For instance, while MozyPro charges 50 cents per GB per month for its storage cloud, it also offers one month free to customers who sign up for a one-year contract, or three months free for customers with two-year contracts.

Dave Robinson, vice president of marketing for Mozy, said in an e-mailed response to CRN that the Symform pricing compared to Mozy pricing is really an "apples to oranges" comparison. "Symform's backup solution takes an end user's data and distributes that data across the unused hard drive space on PCs either internally or externally (e.g. another company's PCs). This model has been around for years, has failed to gain traction, and is much different than our model where (an end user's) data is securely stored at one of our data centers," Robinson said.

Meanwhile, Iron Mountain earlier this month decided to leave the public storage cloud market, and is no longer taking new customers for its Virtual File Store service and its Archive Service Platform offering.

Symform over the last 18 months has signed up about 2,000 channel partners who receive wholesale pricing from Symform for the cloud storage technology. Under the newly-published corporate pricing, partners can get margins of up to 50 percent, Tabbara said.