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Remote backup services get affordable

StorageTek makes its foray into remote backup; Iron Mountain adds stronger encryption to its e-vaulting service, and HP and EMC unveil backup products for SMBs.

Remote backup services, traditionally reserved for major banks and cash-rich Fortune 500 companies, are now available to small and midsized businesses (SMBs). Two vendors -- Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) and Iron Mountain Inc. -- are the latest to get their feet wet in this market.

StorageTek's service, called ViaRemote, backs up data over a standard Internet connection to StorageTek's remote site in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. It's a subscription service that costs approximately $20 per gigabyte (GB) of stored data, or $20,000 per terabyte, plus additional fees for guaranteed services.

ViaRemote is actually Arsenal Digital Solutions Worldwide Inc.'s service, which uses Avamar Inc's software to back up files to the disaster recovery site. StorageTek will resell this service. It enables users to schedule and monitor online backup and restores via a Web-based portal. The software makes eight daily, five weekly and four monthly snapshots, and stores them for a minimum of 90 days.

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Additionally, ViaRemote offers a fast-restore option, which uses an inexpressive JBOD appliance to retain frequently accessed copies of data at the user's site.

According to Tony Asaro, senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, companies have wanted to backup data over the wire for years, but it hasn't been practical or important enough. "The combination of new regulations around corporate governance and technologies, such as incremental backups forever, compression and data deduplication have made it possible to backup over a small WAN pipe," he said.

He believes it makes sense for StorageTek to move into this market as the company already makes around $1 billion in revenue from break-fix and professional services a year. "It's partly why Sun bought them … online backup just extends StorageTek's core competency in data protection."

This kind of managed backup service offer users, particularly in SMBs, a way to alleviate the growing burden of managing backup, according to Adam Couture, senior analyst with the Gartner Group.

"Backup is one of the most onerous IT tasks and it's usually assigned to junior, entry-level people, and they want to get out of it as soon as possible. It's not something you want to make a career out of -- it just keeps cascading onto the new guy," he said.

By way of illustration, Couture recalled a hotel desk clerk who checked him in late at night with one of the hotel's data backup tapes in hand. "Talk about bad procedures … But it's more common than you might think."

Iron Mountain steps up online security

Meanwhile, Iron Mountain, which has been selling its electronic vaulting service for about a year, has beefed up encryption of the service from 128-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES) to 256-bit DES over the lifecycle of the data, not just as it's transferred across the wire. "We also recommend that customers escrow the keys away, it's not a good idea to print them out and lock them in a drawer," said Wayne St. Armand, product marketing manager of Iron Mountain's electronic vaulting service.

Like StorageTek, Iron Mountain has added a disk-based backup appliance to its service that resides at the customer site to speed up restore times. It also offers users the ability to take a snapshot of their data to tape once it reaches Iron Mountain's vault and then send this tape to a third site. "We have to be more secure than you could do it yourself," said John Clancy, executive vice president of Iron Mountain's electronic vaulting service.

Clancy noted that tape backup still has its place because of the sheer volume of data that has to be saved at some companies. "The laws of physics limit the amount of data you can push over the Internet." Pricing ranges by volume as well as service level requirements, but an Exchange server with 50 GB of data can be protected for about $20 per GB, per month.

Other companies selling managed backup services include LiveVault Corp., EVault Inc., AmeriVault Corp. and IBM.

HP, EMC stick to the old fashioned way

Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) has an alternative, introduced this week, that keeps backup in house -- three new tape products aimed at SMBswith little or no IT staff.

The first, a new set of digital audio tape drives, offered in 72 GB and 40 GB densities, uses a Univeral Serial Bus interface eliminating the cost of SCSI interface equipment. The second, an < a href=>LTO Ultrium 232 tape drive, based on HP's Ultrium 215, offers improved performance and thirdly, a new tape autoloader.

Also aimed at small businesses, EMC announced Monday that its Dantz Retrospect backup software offers AES 256-bit encryption and support for Microsoft Windows x64 operating systems. Also new to Retrospect is the ability to perform scheduled grooming of disk backup sets. This deletes unneeded older backup data automatically from a hard drive to make room for newer backups on a scheduled basis.

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