Opinion: Whether to go with online or local backup

It's all a matter of determining acceptable service levels and weighing cost

A considerable buzz swept through storage news venues in the past week because a rumor that EMC Corp. may be purchasing Mozy, the Web-based online backup service (see: "Report: EMC looking to buy online backup service"). The rumor peaked my interest for a couple of reasons. First, from a personal perspective, I've been a using Mozy for nearly a year to back up my home computers and have become convinced that paying $50 per year for Mozy, iDrive , Carbonite or other similar transparent backup services should be a no-brainer for home and small-office/home-office users. All of those digital photos, iTunes downloads and Quicken files deserve protection, and this is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to do so.

The second reason is that it further underscores the potential for this and other Internet storage variants to play a role in addressing the glaring lack of appropriate protection for data that resides on the edges of organizations. The real risk of not being able to recover data in remote offices, laptops and other mobile devices has IT managers searching for workable, cost-effective systems. An Internet-based storage service with its near-CDP (continuous data protection) capability has a strong appeal in that it does not demand a large capital investment or add a significant management burden. With this newest generation of offerings, the price is right.

While many online storage and backup companies are start-ups, these services aren't new. Companies like Connected (now Iron Mountain Inc.) and EVault Inc. (now a Seagate Technology LLC unit) have long offered these and other capabilities primarily to corporations. The field of online storage services has attracted some other significant players. Most notably, Amazon.com Inc.'s S3 (for Simple Storage Service) offers a platform for Web-based online storage applications starting at 15 cents per gigabyte! Start-ups like JungleDisk and ElephantDrive Inc. are leveraging this large, well-recognized partner for their backup and archiving services -- they provide the software and front-end services, but on the back end, your data is being protected by Amazon. Over the past few years, there have also been periodic rumors about possible storage offerings from Google Inc. (the Gdrive?) although they have yet to materialize (see: "Google's Gdrive gets going (and pop-up potpourri)").

Questions naturally arise regarding online services in comparison with traditional backup. It really is a matter of determining acceptable service levels and weighing cost. Keep in mind that while individual files can be restored quickly, large-volume recovery takes time. Likewise, Mozy and its ilk protect data don't do full system recovery. Fundamentally, these products should be viewed as filling a void -- protecting data that is largely unprotected or poorly protected today.

Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies Inc., a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at jimd@glasshouse.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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