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Symantec unveils first hosted backup services

Online offering plugs into BackupExec to provide disaster recovery management

Symantec unveiled Symantec Online Backup and Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec, a set of encrypted services designed to provide hosted data storage and disaster recovery services for small and midsize businesses.

The usage-based backup and recovery services are part of the company's new Symantec Protection Network family of hosted software, the vendor's first line of hosted software. The hosted backup offerings are currently available from Symantec and its resellers.

Company officials declined to identify products that will be added to the line later.

The service will carry monthly or annual fees based on the aggregate amount of data consumed and length of data retention. If a customer goes over its storage allotment plan, it will have to pay an extra price-per-gigabyte fee, noted Pat Hanavan, vice president of product management at Symantec. Users can choose to have stored data retained for 30 days, one year or seven years.

Pricing for begins at US$25 per month for 5GB of capacity. The cost of Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec, which can plug directly into Backup Exec 12 software, costs US$38 per month for 10GB, said Hanavan.

Hanavan suggested that Symantec's online backup services can dramatically cut costs associated with physical tape media by using a browser-based interface to schedule, activate and move backup jobs off-site. Once data is backed up, the service compresses and encrypts it before sending it to a data center for storage. Hanavan said Symantec personnel cannot access customer data stored on its servers.

Symantec joins a growing field of vendors looking to quickly add online backup technology to product repertoires as business and IT managers evaluate the promised simplified management and security benefits. EMC, IBM and Dell have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent months to buy hosted storage technologies.

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The initial version of Symantec's hosted backup system supports only Windows desktops and laptops, Hanavan said. He declined to say when other operating systems would be supported.

Blou Baker, network administrator at Tucker Rocky Distributing in Fort Worth, Texas, plans to implement Symantec Online Backup by March. The wholesale sports equipment distribution company just completed a monthlong evaluation of a test version of Symantec's hosted offering on one of its five Windows servers. The remaining four servers continue to run BackupExec 11D.

Baker said growing concerns over off-site tape security by third parties, lengthening disk-to-disk and disk-to-tape backup cycles, and the expertise required to manage the company's Dell PowerVault 122T tape drive and REO 4000 storage-area network made hosted backup an attractive option.

"Sometimes, if I'm out, the correct tapes don't get put into the right slots. [Also] a lot of stuff is just [backed up] on weekends because we just don't have the time," said Baker. "The tape issue can be a problem for us."

During the test period, the hosted application backed up 172GB of data nightly on Baker's server. She said the hosted system performs speedier backups than the in-house server. It also uses a simple GUI console and provides strong Web-based remote management access capabilities. Baker said she wants to see "more teeth" and detail in future versions of the software's reporting function, however.

If all goes well after initial deployment, Baker expects that the new service will replace all of the BackupExec 11D software at Tucker Rocky.

Symantec today also announced software upgrades for Symantec Backup Exec 12 and Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8.

The enhanced Backup Exec 12 adds integration with Symantec's ThreatCon security alert system, integration with the Enterprise Vault archive database and support for Microsoft Windows Server 2008, said Hanavan.

The new version of the product is priced from US$995 per server.

The disk-based Backup Exec System Recovery 8 adds a new Granular Restore Option to restore on-site and off-site Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint data. Pricing for the software starts at US$1,095 per server and US$69 per workstation.