Cloud Storage Options Multiply

Startup Axcient combines on-site appliance with online backup service; The Planet adds storage cloud to its Web hosting services

March 25, 2009

4 Min Read
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A diverse set of vendors and service providers are betting that online storage services -- better known by the buzzwords "cloud storage" -- will hold great appeal to enterprises large and small as the economic downturn, shrinking IT budgets, and reduced staffing put pressure on tech departments to cut costs while also storing and protecting growing stores of data. Two companies entered the online storage market this week with very different types of products.

Startup Axcient is offering a combination of a storage appliance and an online backup service that's designed give small and mid-sized business an easy way to do fast restores while also preserving data in a safe, remote location. CEO Justin Moore describes the combination as "hardware plus software-as-a-service" and says it will appeal to companies with five to 200 employees that have from 10 GB to 10 TB of data to protect.

"The SMB market is looking for more options to protect their data without spending a lot of money. With us there are no contracts and no commitments. We offer online storage for disaster recovery and local storage for fast recovery. Cloud storage is easy; recovery is hard. We've solved that with our storage appliance," Moore says.

Offered through resellers and systems integrators, Axcient is offering a family of appliances with a range of storage capacities that automatically connect to an off-site data center run by the company. The package includes a Linux-based operating system written by Axcient that's designed to make it easy to add new services and features, as well as provide centralized management, he says. The appliance discovers PCs and servers on the network, can do file- or folder-based backups, and compresses and encrypts the data before sending it to an off-site data center. Specific services include backup, archiving, disaster recovery, and server continuity, where the storage appliance takes an image of a server that it can run in case a server fails.

The system doesn't use agents or require the installation of any software, and multiple copies of data can be stored in different locations to provide greater redundancy, Moore says. Changes to crucial data can be continuously backed up to reduce backup windows. It works with Windows computers, Linux, and Macs. The product will be sold through the channel, and will start at less than $100 a month, depending on the storage capacity of the appliance and the amount of data stored off site."Leveraging a local device makes sense for cloud backup. It gives you the rapid recovery of local backup yet the security of offsite backup," says George Crump, founder of consulting firm Storage Switzerland and a Byte and Switch blogger. A key feature of the package is the ability to use the on-site storage appliance as a server in case a server fails. "Most SMBs can't cost justify a redundant server, so this should be a welcomed capability."

Another online storage approach was introduced today by IT-hosting company The Planet, which says it has more than 20,000 business customers worldwide and more than 48,000 servers under management, and hosts more than 15 million Websites. It has six data centers and provides dedicated servers, managed hosting, and collocation services.

Like Axcient, The Planet is offering local and cloud storage. But in this case the local network-attached storage is in the company's data centers and the cloud storage is in its remote data centers and offered in conjunction with Nirvanix, which built a node for its storage network in The Planet's Dallas data center. The combination of the two companies allows customers to store their data in a number of diverse data centers around the world to gain additional redundancy and security.

Rob Walters, general manager for the company's storage and data protection division, said the Nirvanix node "provides an on-ramp to the cloud. The on-site NAS provides performance and the cloud lets us replicate globally. Customers also can use nodes around the globe to reduce latency."

The Planet recently launched a managed hosting division and is layering la carte services on top of that. "Cloud storage was a logical extension," Walters says. The Planet is charging based on capacity and bandwidth, with storage charges starting at 40 cents per GB per month for a local node and 25 cents per GB per month for a remote node. The company offers an online calculator so customers can determine what it would cost to use the service.The service will have its greatest appeal to current customers of The Planet; the company is looking at offering backup and archiving services to enterprises that are not using its hosting services, he says.Learn more about all the latest products and technologies at TechWeb's Interop Las Vegas, May 17-21. Join us (registration required).

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