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Online Backup Is Promising Option for IT Managers

In many organizations, backing up data has been one of the main jobs of the IT department and one that offers the least fun. It is a task that has to occur daily -- at least. It chews up valuable time and resources, can lead to significant problems if not completed properly, has become more important with recent government regulations, and has about as much appeal as an unsalted cracker. After all, how exciting is it to sit and wait for data to be written to a tape or a disk?

In a growing number of instances, an alternative to this long-standing grunt work is emerging: Companies are beginning to hand the task over to third parties. That change means no more sitting and waiting for a tape or disk to copy, no more worrying about where you might have put said tape or disk, and having greater redundancy if your corporate data gets lost.

Yet, there are limitations with these services. In many cases, there is not sufficient bandwidth available to support the vast amount of data that large enterprises need to back up, so early adopters tend to be small and medium-sized businesses. Also, there are different approaches for delivering these services, and the market is splintering between data center backup -- its traditional base -- and end-user backup, an emerging market segment. In sum, while there is a lot of interest in this category of service, there are more questions than answers about whether it is a viable backup alternative for many companies.

In fact, few companies are now using online backup. Analysts peg the amount of money spent annually on these services at around a few hundred million dollars. Yet, it has attracted a wide variety of suppliers. AmeriVault Corp. , Asigra Inc. , Carbonite Inc. , DataVault, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Intronis LLC , Iron Mountain Inc. (NYSE: IRM), Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX), and Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) are some of the suppliers offering backup services.

Making sure that companies make copies of corporate information has been a requirement since the days when IBM mainframes ruled the data center. Until recently, their only option was making a tape or disk duplicate and physically moving it somewhere else. "Vendors expended a lot of time and effort figuring out to do backup over the WAN [wide-area network]," noted David Friend, chairman and CEO at Carbonite.

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