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The online/hosted backup market is about to heat up, especially with the news that EMC has jumped into the market with its acquisition of Berkley Data Systems and its Mozy backup service. What this means for EMC and Mozy’s partners is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain—online backup services are here to stay and can only grow!

The question remains though, Will that growth empower solution providers or compete against core offerings, such as business continuity, disaster recovery, data archiving and just plain, old traditional backup hardware and software? Luckily, the backup arena is complex enough for solution providers to play both angles: selling traditional solutions and still offering expanded services via online vendors.

The vendors break down into two camps: those that sell only direct and those that work with channel partners. What’s more, there are dozens, if not hundreds of vendors making a play for online backup. The problem is figuring out who is actually offering a backup server as opposed to just remote storage that can be used for backups.

That may seem like a small difference but in reality could have major implications for solution providers looking to resell backup services.

ESP Labs filtered through the plethora of vendors and came up with about two dozen that offer true backup services (not just remote storage). Out of those 20-something vendors, seven were willing to talk about their channel programs and services for the partner community, at least before our deadline was up.

After all was said and done, a mixed bag of players, some new, some around for a while, emerged as channel-friendly and looking for partners. Those vendors turned out to be AmeriVault, Asigra, Iron Mountain Digital, Leb Shama, Mozy, Remote Data Backups and Vembu Technologies.

Each has its own take on the channel and its own take on how to build a service around backup. For example, AmeriVault, Mozy and Remote Data Backups offer a model where a customer pays a fee based on gigabytes per month used, while Asigra sells based upon total capacity needed. The others here offer either the software to build a hosted solution or a mixture of software and hosting.

For a look at seven backup service providers that are looking for partners, click here.

Iron Mountain Digital, which is the granddaddy of remote storage here (over 20 years), offers hosting or the software to build a hosting service. What’s more, the company charges by number of systems and system types to be backed up, eliminating the concerns about volume needed. Leb Shama with its Ashay product, focuses on providing customers with the software to build a hosted backup service (that software can be purchased or leased).

Those options bring up an interesting quandary for most solution providers: to host or not to host. Vendor-hosted solutions eliminate most of the burdens for solution providers, who pretty much act as a middle man providing a service. Hosting software brings a solution provider directly into the hosted market with the ability to set margins and enhance services, yet carrying the burden of equipment and support costs. Neither business model is right or wrong, it is just a matter of what fits best for the solution provider.

The benefits for offering hosted backup are many. Solution providers can offer their customers a geographically isolated backup storage system, which can protect valuable data in case of a regional problem or loss of facility. What’s more, the service becomes a recurring revenue stream for the solution provider, while offering their customers a low-cost alternative to traditional backup.

On the downside, hosted backup can be a bandwidth hog, using up large chunks of bandwidth to back up data. With traditional backup, speeds are discussed as gigabytes per minute; hosted backup changes that conversation to megabytes per minute. This is a major concern when backing up large data stores or databases. After all, how much time it takes to back up can affect how much time a system is available for use.

The vendors here all have different takes on how to work with their partners (see slide show above), but that can work to a solution provider’s advantage by partnering with multiple vendors and offering solutions that best fit individual customers. Any way you slice it, hosted solutions are here to stay, and it’s up to the channel to figure out if those solutions are a friend or foe to the solution provider.