Mirra brings big backup home

Recognition that the digital media files stored on your PC are more valuable than the system itself has prompted the design of Mirra, a personal storage server being unveiled this week by Ispiri.

The product is intended to bring a painless taste of corporate-storage redundancy and availability to personal and SOHO users, says Richard Mandeberg, chief executive officer. The network-attached storage server is being shown at the DEMOmobile 2003 conference.

Mirra will become available directly from Inspiri in mid-October, starting at US$399. Retail sales are scheduled to begin early in 2004, notes Leslie Latham, vice president of marketing.

Easy Start

Mirra comprises three pieces: hardware, software, and service, which combine to enable users to automatically back up important files, share them with others on a home network, and access them remotely through a secure service. However, you don't have to be a network professional to get Mirra up and running, according to Ispiri.

Setup is a one-step process in which Mirra determines the nature of the network and performs most of its own configuration, Mandeberg says. You're only required to provide a name for your Mirra appliance.

After your Mirra is named and talking with the rest of the network, its client software will make suggestions about which folders you might want to back up to the Mirra server. You can back up any folder with a simple mouse click, and all backup is fully automatic.

Besides simple backup, the client software handles version control (making sure the backed-up file is the most recent version), and provides access to other users to whom the files' owner has given permission.

Because the Mirra server is built on a Linux software platform, the files stored on the appliance should be safe from worms and viruses that attack Windows-based servers, Mandeberg adds. While stored files may be infected with electronic vermin, the Mirra server itself is not vulnerable to most of the common infections.

Remote Access Options

Mirra makes your files available when you're away from your PC by combining a feature of the appliance with a hosted service provided by Inspiri.

Mirra's installation assumes that its location has an "always on" broadband connection, and uses it to reach out and touch the Inspiri corporate service. Most of the time, this is a simple "ping" every couple of seconds, although it also provides an opportunity for unattended software updates and fixes.

If an off-site user has properly authenticated to the Mirra service at the Inspiri host, and requests a file, the service makes the request when the Mirra next touches base. The advantage of this approach is that the connection is initiated by the Mirra server inside the user's router or firewall. This means that no firewall or router reconfiguration is required to allow an external server to get information from within the network. It's an approach that minimizes user effort and security risk.

Expanding and Enhancing

The Mirra appliance is expandable through its four USB 2.0 ports, and Inspiri plans to release hard disks and other devices for the server in 2004, Mandeberg says.

In addition, Ispiri is enhancing the Mirra software and Inspiri service to enable multiple appliances to synchronize files among themselves. With this capability, an individual might have two Mirras, one each for home and office and synchronize work-related files between the two. Or, several families might share photographs or digital video over a distributed network of Mirra servers.

Inspiri is a startup company founded by Tim Bucher, who is also vice president of Macintosh Systems at Apple Computer Inc., and a former executive at Microsoft Corp. and WebTV.

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Curtis Franklin

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