Symform Trades Free Cloud Backup For Excess Storage Capacity

Under the new program, which Seattle-based Symform called "Bytes or Bucks," customers can either pay 15 cents per GB per month for its Symform Cloud Storage Network service, or provide 2 GB of free space to Symform for each GB of data backed up on the Symform system.

Symform, which in late 2009 came out of stealth mode, develops distributed cloud backup technology that protects a customer's data by breaking it into tiny blocks, encrypting those blocks and then dispersing them across excess capacity on multiple customers' storage devices.

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At 15 cents per GB per month for cloud-based data protection, Symform is already priced competitively, said Margaret Dawson, vice president of product management for the vendor.

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Under the "Bytes or Bucks" program, that price is really aimed at incentivizing customer to pay for the service with "Bytes," or excess capacity Symform can use, instead of "Bucks," Dawson said.

"Our number one priority is getting more capacity available for customers," she said. "In the market today, we're seeing between 7 cents and 40 cents per GB per month. So we're still very competitive. We're not providing raw storage. We're expanding data protection to the cloud."

Symform plans to take the capacity provided by customers who use its service for no charge as a way to expand its reach to customers who will pay, Dawson said.

"In the short term, some people will pay for the capacity," she said. "And some customers will pay for support. And over time, we will monetize that capacity."

Symform customers can also get discounted support by providing excess capacity, Dawson said. "If the customer ends up providing more local drive space in excess of the 2-to-1 ration needed to maintain their 'Bytes' balance, we provide a discount for their support."

NEXT: VARs, MSP Can Get Free Service To Sell Because so many customers provide capacity for Symform's use, the cost of that capacity is much lower than other data centers pay for capacity, said Mason White, director of product marketing for the vendor.

"We don't need a large percentage of customers paying us in dollars for us to do well," White said.

For solution provider and services partners, the new program provides a zero-cash offering to their own managed services, he said.

Computer Rescue is taking advantage of the "Bytes or Bucks" program by providing the required excess capacity itself and charging customers for the service, said Jeff Willems, president of the San Antonio, Texas-based managed services provider, which has worked with Symform for one-and-a-half years.

"We provided the capacity from the beginning," Willems said. "The difference now is that we provide the capacity instead of paying for the license. It's an easy program for us. Instead of paying for the license, we add more storage."

Helping customers understand how Symform's distributed cloud backup service works has been easy, Willems said.

"A lot of people like it," he said. "We explain that their data is scattered all over the place, and is not in just one place, so it's not easy to compromise the data. And our typical customer just doesn't care where the data is. They just want to know that Computer Rescue is taking care of it."