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There’s obviously a lot of interest in cloud storage these days, but actual usage of cloud storage has not been as popular as most solution providers in the channel might like.

The reason for this is that most customers are not very disciplined about backup and recovery as a process, In addition, many customers can’t distinguish between what needs to be backed up versus merely archived. And finally, cloud storage appears to be expensive compared to just doing a local backup, regardless of the fact that the backup is now being stored in the same place as where the disaster is probably going to occur.

Because of these issues the folks at Symform, which announced an additional $11 million in funding today, have developed an approach to cloud storage that leverages a peer-to-peer architecture running across multiple data centers. Rather than backing everything up to a single data center, Symform makes it simpler to distribute data across multiple data centers.

The Symform cloud storage network is made up of data centers belonging to both Symform and partners and customers that make available excess local storage to Symform in exchange for free or flat fee cloud storage.

Symform CEO Matthew Schiltz says that analysts estimate up to 85 percent of local storage sits idle in most data centers. Symform will not only use the additional $11 million in funding  to expand the size of that network, but also strike a variety of OEM agreements with manufacturers of network-attached storage (NAS) systems that will embed connections to the Symform network inside their offerings.

Schiltz says demand for cloud storage will grow more aggressively once it’s perceived to be more affordable. The company recently released the results of a survey of 600 IT professionals that found that while more than half the respondents expect data volumes to grow anywhere from 10 to 40 percent data in the next 12 months, the survey finds that the cost of backing up all that data either on premise or in the cloud has become a major concern.

The Symform approach, says Schiltz, is not only more cost-effective, it’s also allows solution providers to enjoy the benefits of a lower cost cloud storage delivery model. As such, Schiltz says Symford is not only looking for partners to participate in the network, but also companies that want to resell the service.

Cloud storage represents a significant opportunity because as the volume of data that need to be managed continues to grow most customers discover they generally have no real internal expertise when it comes to classifying what data needs to be readily available versus simply archived. That creates not only an opportunity to deliver the cloud storage services, but also provide data management consulting services.

The rise of cloud storage is in many ways is driving a reunification of data and storage management that has been long overdue. That’s good news for solution providers because rather than thinking in terms of selling storage devices and few cloud related services, they can now more lucratively manage customer data on premise or in the cloud on a continuous basis.