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HP Tries Toll Plan for SMBs

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)
is bringing its SAN pay-per-use concept from the enterprise into the small and medium business (SMB) market, in a move that throws the payment model into question.

What's pay-per-use? It has nothing to do with those old pay toilets that are now outlawed. And no, you don't have to drop a quarter into the desktop every time you want to access your database.

Pay-per-use is a leasing plan that lets customers pay a fixed monthly rate plus a variable fee based on actual usage. If a business with HP gear uses less storage than usual in a given month, it pays less for licensing the equipment. If storage use spikes, the customer pays more, in the form of a one-time fee.

Theoretically, the company saves by not having to shell out quite as much in monthly payments as they would if leasing the SAN gear without the plan. If needed, though, the entire system is at the company's disposal for the full fee.

HP has offered pay-per-use pricing for its high-end XP enterprise SANs since June (see HP Services Stay Self Centered). Competitors IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) offer similar plans for their high-end gear. Now HP is making pay-per-use available on its Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) systems for SMBs and small enterprises.

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