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Seems simple enough, but when left in the hands of a non-techie, those parameters are not taken into account. Configuring a backup environment devoid of these parameters is a job only half done.

Having taken the long way around, we've arrived back at backup and recovery in the cloud. Walking through a number of the encompassing caveats is critical to understanding the trend. As mentioned earlier, backing up to or via the cloud is enabled through advances in file compression and broadband technologies, but the human factor can't be overlooked.

The operating budget of the smaller enterprise is lean while competitive forces across the markets they service is stiff. Removing the overhead of purchasing autoloaders, the associated media, training staff, as well as contracting a service to pick up the media with oil going for US$130 per barrel can be become incredibly costly. Cloud computing on a whole helps to mitigate cost and reduce risk while managing complexity.

Let's talk about who are some of the players in this space.

A main stay of backup and recovery for years has been Veritas. Many Novell customers who have administered NetWare and GroupWise are familiar with, and have used Veritas BackupExec for data protection. As with many market-leading products, Veritas was acquired by Symantec. The core product has seen limited development until recently with the addition of online functionality. Titled, Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec it provides offsite storage for disaster recovery and long-term retention. Additionally, Symantec presents two more core options for use. They are a complement for the local backup storage medium of choice or as a complete replacement for local backup media. Unfortunately, this feature set is only available for Windows.

Next from Symantec is Symantec Online Backup (SOB), which is a true cloud solution and targeted squarely at the smaller enterprise. Unlike the online storage option for Backup Exec for Windows, SOB requires no previous investment in backup software. This is a plus as the recovery, configuration and overall management is all performed from a browser. Lastly, its pricing is based solely on the amount of data in combination with the length of storage.

The suite of products available from Symantec are moderately impressive. Moreover, they are designed to fulfill a niche in smaller- to medium-enterprise computing. One feature that is not so product specific but buyer specific are the various pricing calculators. They do a very good job of simplifying the buying process for the consumer.

Moving along to another player in the online backup space is Broadleaf Services. They also target the smaller- to medium-enterprise space but do so with a strategic twist. Their product is named Archeon. In comparison to the Symantec offering, the sweet spot for the Archeon product is 100 to 150GB of storage.

Protection is—and here's the twist—two layers deep. Most online backup solutions provide only a single layer with that layer being data in the cloud. But what happens if your Internet connection is down and you need to have data backed up?

Broadleaf addresses this by providing a physical backup target in-house. Once data is backed up here, it is then uploaded to another box in a data center. The beauty of the scenario comes in the form of data extraction. With solutions like Zmanda that use the Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) as a backup target, issues arise when attempting to extract your entire data set.

When would extracting your entire data set be applicable?

When your primary location floods, burns down or is infested with widget-making Gnomes. Basically, if you lose your primary server(s) and need access to your information in its native form, Broadleaf can simply pull the server out of its data center and deliver it to your door. The alternative with many solutions is ad hoc at best. If that same situation were to present itself not only would you or your technical staff be scrabbling to get desktops allocated and acquired but also how to get the data onto a usable server.

The sea of computing is always chock full of solutions ready to harvested. Some bad some good. In the arena of storage and storage backup, this has never been more true. Everyone has a storage problem and collaboration will exacerbate this issue. That said, we are at a good place if simply because many of the stumbling blocks that forced organizations into one camp or another are being removed. A major one was interoperability. With this and data portability on everyone's mind storage management will move closer to the center of computing rather than remain on the fringes.

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