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Cloud storage services via hybrid system approach

Find out how to get a foothold in the cloud storage market using emerging hybrid on-premise approaches from cloud storage vendors.

In a recent article for, Rick Cook discusses how SMBs and remote offices can benefit from cloud backup solutions, as well as what end users should look for in cloud backup and how to know if they're ready for it. But what about solution providers? In general, solution providers have great concerns about cloud computing and cloud storage services. Judging from the conversations I have had with your peers, many of you think you'll lose business to the cloud. But this shouldn't be the case. Cloud storage in particular can be a very good market for storage resellers.

More on cloud storage
Project FAQ: Cloud storage services

So how do you take advantage of cloud computing? The answer to that question depends on your organization. If you have the resources, you can become a cloud storage provider yourself. Cloud storage software-only solutions from companies like Bycast and Mezeo can enable you to take basic storage hardware and add a cloud storage offering to your solution set. (Learn more about creating your own cloud storage services offering.)

While becoming a cloud storage service provider is a viable option for some solution providers, most aren't capable of making the capital investment. If you can't be a provider, are you left out? Not even a little bit. There's more opportunity in the cloud, and you should be ready to address it.

As cloud storage matures, vendors' deployment models are becoming more consistent, and one in particular that should be very inclusive of resellers is a hybrid model involving an on-premise piece of equipment and, of course, the cloud storage facility itself. Companies like Axcient, Nirvanix and Iron Mountain (with its Virtual File Store product) offer appliances that are deployed at the customer site, and data is then replicated or migrated to a primary data center.

In this model, someone needs to deploy the appliance that goes on site, configure that appliance and help the customer develop processes to take advantage of cloud storage. While some cloud storage providers will try to take on all this work, there are just too many endpoints for the cloud storage provider to handle on their own. For instance, in the cloud storage space that resellers should be focusing on -- the SMB market -- there are well over 100,000 businesses with at least 20 employees. That slice of the market holds a lot of potential for VARs and integrators looking to do cloud-related work. Most cloud storage providers are still small and don't have a professional services team that can handle the work list.

Cloud providers are beginning to understand the challenge of configuration and optimization on a wide scale and are working to make the process easier. Axcient, for example, is a channel-only supplier with an SMB cloud backup appliance. The product's interface will allow you to remotely configure and manage a customer's backup jobs. It even includes a dashboard-like display that will show you all your clients' jobs in a single view.

Both Iron Mountain and Nirvanix use an appliance at the customer's site as a local gateway that provides the speed of local performance with the scalability of the cloud. Nirvanix partners with backup providers like Atempo to allow its resellers to provide the ability to archive data or backup jobs to a Nirvanix cloud storage facility. Atempo leverages the local appliance to direct archives and backups. Most customers will need an integrator to install and configure the appliance and the software.

Expect many other suppliers to follow suit with a hybrid cloud storage approach, either through the hardware/software arrangement similar to Nirvanix/Atempo or the Axcient appliance model, which directly supports the reseller's effort.

In either case, cloud storage will not bring storm clouds for resellers; they will be clouds of opportunity. Don't let those clouds blow by you!

Here's what Rick Cook had to say about the topic:

Cloud backup for remote offices and SMBs

Cloud-based or online backup is a very intriguing backup alternative for remote sites and SMBs. Many cloud providers are currently targeting individuals and very small businesses. But cloud backup is also well suited for remote offices because it can handle dark backups -- automatic backups that don't require manual intervention.

If a remote office has a relatively modest amount of data to back up, a cloud service may be a good fit; however, bandwidth may still be an issue. At the least, a broadband connection is required, and consideration should be given to bandwidth requirements for large restores.
Reliability could also be an issue.

Read the rest of the story on cloud backup for remote offices and SMBs by Rick Cook.

About the author
George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.


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