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CA, Microsoft combine for hybrid cloud backup service

CA will let ARCserve customers move data off to Microsoft Azure, adding subscription-based backup to ARCserve’s onsite backup in a move that follows rivals Symantec and CommVault.

CA Technologies this week entered into a partnership with Microsoft to offer cloud backup. The agreement will allow CA ARCserve to back up data to Microsoft’s Azure subscription-based online storage service.

CA is following several rivals offering cloud backup through partnerships with Microsoft or other cloud backup services. CommVault Inc. added cloud access to its Simpana data backup software more than a year ago, and last week Symantec announced a cloud option for Backup Exec.

CA’s cloud service is aimed at small- to medium-sized business (SMB) customers who want to use local and off-site backups for hybrid cloud backup, according to Eric Harless, director of product management for CA’s data management business.

“There are a lot of cloud-based solutions out there where they say, ‘Pull your files, pull your data, pull your My Documents up and store them in the cloud’ where they’re easily retrievable from any location. And we’re going to deliver that functionality as well,” Harless said. “But a lot of people will look at that and they will step away from the traditional data protection of having a local on-site copy. So we’re blending the best of both worlds with this local disaster recovery copy, a local bare-metal recovery copy and the advantages of the cloud.”

The service is designed to use a traditional Internet connection to back up and recover data from the cloud, Harless said, and includes AES-256 encryption to protect data. ARCserve backs up only blocks of data that have changed between updates, saving bandwidth and costs for the cloud-based service.

Harless said an English language public beta will be released this summer, and a localized version available in nine languages will be out by the fall. The costs for a monthly or annual subscription to the service haven’t been set yet.

Will lack of portable storage introduce risk?

Unlike some other cloud backup vendors, CA will not offer customers a portable storage option. With portable storage, customers can have their data copied onto a disk device and shipped to them. This makes for quicker restores than having to pull large amounts of data over the Internet. Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Whitehouse said lack of a portable storage option could create some risk for customers.

“I don’t think Microsoft Azure is going to be offering that kind of service, so there is some risk involved,” she said. “But that risk is not universal. There are vendors who have figured out that’s the hurdle they have to overcome, and they’re putting programs in place, or services in place—all for a fee, by the way.

“The positive side [of CA’s cloud option] is that if you just need a single file or two from the cloud, that can actually be a lot easier, because I don’t have to open up a trouble ticket with the help desk, and have the storage guy retrieve something for me.”

In early 2010, CA announced an agreement to participate in a cloud storage API program with Seagate Technology Inc.’s i365 division. CA would not comment on the status of that arrangement, but Harless said the vendor may look at partnerships with other cloud providers, too. “There are definitely other players out there. We haven’t ruled any of those out. But the extent of this offering is with Azure,” he said.

Dave Russell, vice president of storage technologies and strategies at Gartner Research, noted CA’s cloud deal comes around the same time as Symantec’s subscription-based Backup, which Symantec plans to make available this year for SMBs and remote offices.

“The bigger difference is that CA is really targeting the managed service providers (MSPs) with the value proposition being the brand name of ARCserve and the MSP’s ability to both configure the policy and to potentially review and administrate the backup,” Russell wrote in an email to

Symantec senior product marketing manager Dave Elliott pointed out that the Backup Exec brand will be available as software, an appliance or a cloud service. “Cloud, while critical, is only part of the story for an SMB backup,” he said.

Symantec also offers portable storage with its cloud backup service. Elliott said cloud storage is an option to back up data from a larger firm’s satellite offices, but cloud customers tend to be smaller businesses seeking a cheaper and easier way to store their data, he said.

“These are customers that are typically smaller businesses with smaller amounts of data, who just want the simplest, most affordable backup [and] not have to have infrastructure on-site themselves,” said Elliott.

CommVault gives Simpana customers the ability to move data off to their choice of cloud providers, including Amazon, AT&T, Microsoft and Nirvanix. CommVault CEO Bob Hammer said a cloud option is becoming almost mandatory for a backup vendor.

“People want to know that cloud capability is available if and when they want to do it,” he said.

Senior news director Dave Raffo contributed to this story.

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