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Picking Online Storage Services: Top Tips

Storage managers considering online backup services face a dizzying array of choices these days. There is backup SaaS, typified by Carbonite, EMC's Mozy Enterprise, and the Symantec Protection Network. There are network-based services such as Amazon's S3 and the Storage Delivery Network from Nirvanix. Not to mention more traditional online backup and storage services from Iron Mountain or Canada-based Storagepipe, to name just two.

Experts say keeping a few key points in mind may help IT pros navigate these and other offerings in the growing mass of online storage services. Here are some nuggets we culled from talking to vendors, analysts, and customers:

Keep your requirements in mind up front. An enterprise using online services for e-discovery or compliance archiving/searching will demand more of its service provider than a firm that sells space for personal photo albums. "Nobody in consumer online backup really has SLAs, but it's not that big a deal. If I stopped backing up your PC for a few minutes you probably wouldn't notice," says David Friend, CEO and president of Carbonite. On the other hand, when the lawyers call a financial services firm, the time required to retrieve an important file will be noted.

Do the math. It may help to match what you expect to get out of online services with what you are willing to pay, then decide where to make tradeoffs. Enterprise-style services are still expensive: A sample quote provided to Byte and Switch today by NetMass, a service provider that uses Asigra Televaulting software to provide online backup, called for $4,000 per month plus $8 per Gigabyte overage for a subscription to protect 1.5 Terabytes of data. There's also a $250 installation fee per site.

Of course, Asigra-based services like NetMass's feature a range of enterprise-grade features, including a grid architecture that scales; compression and de-duplication of data to reduce overhead and improve bandwidth consumption; replication, CDP, and other backup and archiving features; and a range of encryption options. Not everyone needs all that.

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