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Backup SaaS offers remote data destruction

Spearstone launches backup Software as a Service (SaaS) with data security features, such as remote data destruction.

Spearstone LLC joined the backup Software as a Service (SaaS) space this week by launching DiskAgent, a backup service with data security features and the ability to backup and access multiple versions of files online.

Spearstone was established in 2004 as an "application services division for hire," according to CEO Hayden Hartland. DiskAgent is the company's first commercial product and will be sold as a service by Spearstone, as well as marketed to other online service providers.

The new service will offer Web-based browsing for multiple versions of backed up files. That's a different approach from backup services, such as Carbonite, Memeo,and Mozy, which backup and restore files directly to and from the local workstation. However, other new online services, such as iBackup, and SpiderOak, also offer file versioning.

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Securing sensitve data

Spearstone is trying to create further differentiation for DiskAgent by including the ability to remotely destroy data on a laptop or desktop if it is stolen or, according to user-set policy, after a certain number of attempts to log in to a workstation. Data destruction can be done either by remotely erasing the disk or doing a Department of Defense multiple overwrite operation to render data unreadable. Data at rest and in flight on the DiskAgent system is also encrypted using AES 128.

"Everyone has sensitive data – for us it could be disastrous if source code got out," said DiskAgent beta tester Robert Jacobs, vice president of application services for software developer TenFold.

"In fact, I've recently gotten a letter from a hospital in Utah notifying me of a data breach – having a way to destroy sensitive data seems a lot more secure than a letter and free credit reporting for a year," Jacobs said.

Other companies offer remote deletion in the information security market, but few combine it with other backup. "There are companies with CDP for file solutions that maintain a desktop image on the corporate LAN and if the laptop is stolen or lost, they can check the image to see if the company has any liabilities," said Lauren Whitehouse, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst. "But I hadn't heard of anyone taking actions to remotely disable the equipment or data."

Other standalone data deletion tools include Dell's Laptop Tracking and Recovery, XTool Remote Security's Xtool Remote Delete, Inspice's Inspice Trace Enterprise and AbsoluteSoftware's Computrace Plus.

These tools can be effective if deployed correctly, but the recent case of a laptop theft at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey last January shows that this approach isn't without its liabilities. Data deletion on a stolen laptop from Horizon took place nearly three weeks after the computer was stolen. Horizon was still forced to disclose the data breach because it was possible that data was accessed before data destruction took place.

The price of security

DiksAgent's extra security comes at a price. The service costs $4.95 per backup per month, plus 49 cents per gigabyte capacity and another $4.95 monthly per machine for remote delete/data loss protection. The first gigabyte of capacity is free, and a 40% discount is available for volume purchases and resellers.

According to Taneja Group analyst Eric Burgener, "Expect to see a lot more of these cloud-based storage offerings for things like primary storage, backup and archive going forward, and the ease of use they talk about is one of the primary reasons I think solutions like this will get considered for distributed/disconnected clients like laptops." However, he warned, "The pricing seems a little out of whack. Vendors like Nirvanix are way under $1 a GB with their cloud based storage offerings."

"DiskAgent is very open about what they charge. But I'm not sure how the costs will fit into our budget yet," Jacobs added.

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