Symantec partners: Online Backup service appeals to small client base

Online backup hasn't caught on, but partners hold out hope for future Symantec Protection Network services.

Symantec profits skyrocketed this quarter on the strength of software sales, but some partners are still waiting for the Symantec Protection Network Online Backup service to catch on with customers.

The Symantec Protection Network, Symantec's Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, debuted in February with Online Backup and Online Storage for Backup Exec. Symantec and partners said at the time that the services would help them reach new customers, but so far they have only appealed to a small segment of the market.

"I'm not averse to selling it," said Gary Cannon, president of Advanced Internet Security in Colorado Springs, Colo. "It just hasn't sparked anybody's real interest on the outside."

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The Online Backup service is a Web-based application that lets customers manage and store information at off-site Symantec data centers. Online Storage for Backup Exec stores data off-site but relies on Backup Exec for on-site management.

"Certain market segments need it more than others," said Adam Gray, chief technical officer for Novacoast in Santa Barbara, Calif. "Big enterprise customers will never use this. The midmarket is pretty split."

Novacoast has sold the Online Backup service to "a few" customers, mostly small businesses that don't have the money or space for on-site backup, Gray said. The only customers who would be interested are new customers that don't have any backup in place or can't manage the on-premise backup they already have, Cannon said.

With existing customers, "a lot of them already have a solution in place on their own servers, and they're not willing to go in another direction," he said.

Both Cannon and Gray said the slow sales aren't that big a deal, because selling SaaS is not as profitable as their other businesses anyway. Value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) can charge more for implementing and managing software and hardware at customer sites than they can for simply reselling subscription services that vendors manage.

"We haven't really put a lot of our own resources into [Online Backup]," Cannon said. "We focus a lot of our energy into selling products and services."

On the other hand, the customers that do buy the Online Backup service likely would not have bought any other Symantec product or service, so "it's better than nothing," Gray said.

Symantec announced the Symantec Protection Network in April 2007 and has said that eventually all of its software will be available as hosted services. Despite the Online Backup Service's lukewarm reception in the market, Gray said future offerings will likely appeal to more customers. He specifically mentioned security monitoring, which is time-consuming and costly for many businesses.

"We're going to see a major shift in how people monitor," he said. "If you can hand that off to someone, that's great."

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