Is an online backup service OK for your data stockpiles?

Online data backups and e-mail archiving finally turning the storage-as-a-service dream into a business reality

These days in IT, you can buy a service for anything - including, once again, your storage.

Today's storage-as-a-service providers have arisen from the ashes of the dot-com era's storage service providers (SSP). But they differ in one critical way: They want to store your backups and e-mail archives, not your mission-critical, front-line data. The new storage-as-a-service idea has gained cachet quickly among IT professionals who don't want the burden of data backups, e-mail management and content archiving.


Read a story about how online data-backup services keep Geokinetics compliant as it rapidly builds out its IT infrastructure.

Such holds true for Corey Grone, IT manager at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). The backup burden has eased considerably since he began using EMC's Mozy storage-as-a-service offering, Grone says. The Mozy online backup service has helped him provide consistent backup for seven departments of varying technological sophistication.

"Our departments run the gamut, from having lots of personnel and technology infrastructure to having none," Grone says. "Using Mozy was a way for us to deploy a backup solution across the board in a straightforward, rapid and easy way without having to worry about infrastructure and personnel to man the infrastructure and all of the issues associated with traditional backup strategies," he says.

With Mozy, which EMC acquired along with Berkeley Data Systems in September 2007, Grone backs up user files on desktops and laptops nearly continuously. If users lose data, they can recover it over Mozy servers.

At first, the thought of relying on storage-as-a-service for data backups was a big concern, Grone says. His worries disappeared once he conducted his due diligence, however. Mozy won him over with such features as encryption of data in transit and at rest. In addition, Grone likes that Mozy lets users create their own encryption keys to guarantee privacy.

Online data-backup services can help out the bottom line, too. With online backup, IT departments can avoid having to invest in backup software, hardware and media, and still provide reliable data protection. Online backup services are priced in two ways - by the amount of backed-up data in gigabytes or by the number of servers, desktops and laptops backed up. For example, Mozy costs US$24 for a single server license and 10GB of storage or from US$30 to US$70 for five servers and 20GB of storage.

At the University of Pittsburgh, the cost to the GSPH of planning, implementing and maintaining a backup infrastructure would have been prohibitive, Grone says. "Implementing Mozy sidesteps all of these concerns and presents a secure off-site backup solution that is easy to deploy and maintain," he says. "The pay-as-you-go pricing model also ensures that our costs match our utilization, providing immediate return on investment."

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