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Backup customers hunt for data protection alternatives

Symantec's Backup customers need another way to protect data, and many must pay for two services until migrating off Symantec's cloud.

Symantec's decision to pull the plug on its Backup service in the wake of the Nirvanix shutdown comes as a one-two punch for organizations looking to put data in the cloud.

After startup Nirvanix shuttered its storage cloud, storage pros vowed to be more careful about picking providers. But Symantec's Backup Exec decision showed that even large vendors could get cold feet about cloud services.

"If all your backups are tied to the cloud, you are having a heart attack right now," said Kevin McDonald, executive vice president at Alvaka Networks, a managed service provider (MSP) in Irvine, Calif.

"I'm starting to become wary of all these cloud services," said a software developer at a Symantec channel partner who asked not to be identified.

At least Symantec is giving customers and partners a year to find a backup alternative, compared to the month that Nirvanix gave organizations to move data off its cloud because it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Symantec last month informed its reseller partners via email that it was halting sales and renewals for Backup as of Jan. 6, 2014, and the service would be shut down as of Jan. 6, 2015.

Still, even the long notice doesn't mean the process will be pain-free for Backup customers. The Symantec channel partner said in the last year he sold Symantec Backup to companies with fewer than 30 employees. These customers are prime candidates for cloud backup because they typically do not have an IT person on staff, so they hire a channel partner or MSP as a consultant to provide and provision the service.

"I have to call them and tell them, 'Your cloud service provider is shutting down,'" he said. "The problem is they now have to find a new solution and they have to pay me for a new solution. They are going to have to restore the backups on-premises and, if they decide to go with another cloud provider, they have to push their backups through the Internet to another service.

"No matter what, if the service shuts down, it's going to cost them money."

Since Symantec's decision became public, a bunch of cloud backup vendors have stepped forward to try to entice Backup customers with free data migration and alternative cloud services.

Leeds, United Kingdom-based Backup Technology Limited (BTL) that specializes in online backup and disaster recovery services, has offered a free migration for all Backup customers. Customers can run BTL's backup alongside Backup for free until the Symantec contract ends. EVault, a Seagate company, is providing Symantec customers three free months if they move to the EVault cloud backup service, which backs up to Microsoft Windows Azure. will allow Symantec Backup customers to apply up to six months of their unused balance of their service to Zetta's cloud backup and disaster recovery service free of charge. Zetta is also offering an additional 20% discount on an annual cloud backup contract.

BUMI (Backup My Info) is offering a Symantec Trade-up program that includes a free backup and recovery consultation, a migration plan with recommended best practices, and two free months of the BUMI There public cloud backup service.

"What customers are up against is they have to decide, 'Do we still want to pursue a cloud strategy?'" said Gary Sevounts,'s vice president of marketing. "Then they have to decide who they want to work with because there are hundreds of cloud vendors. A lot of people don't understand the size of the cloud offerings because there is so much noise out there."

Sevounts said between 70 to 100 customers, MSPs and resellers have contacted his company since the Symantec announcement. He said the companies are "mostly medium-sized business, some small," with a range of 50 to 500 employees.

"If you use cloud backup, you have to be selective of how much you back up," Sevounts said.

Most Symantec Backup customers probably fall into two categories. One group has a backup copy on-premises, along with a copy in the cloud; the other group has a copy only in the cloud. Customers with a copy on-premises don't have to worry about restoring data from the cloud because they can back up to another cloud.

Those without an on-premises backup copy will have to restore the data on-premises first, and then move it to another cloud. These customers will be paying for two cloud services until they migrate data off Symantec's service.

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