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Nearly a year after it first announced its software-as-a-service Symantec Protection Network online backup offering for SMBs, the security vendor has said the solution is now generally available.

The company is offering a free, three-month trial for customers who sign up before April 30, and is offering higher commissions to partners who convert those trials to subscribers, according to Jeff Housman, vice president and general manager of Symantec Protection Network.

The security software provider announced the online storage introduction Feb. 19 at the same time it announced a lineup of other product updates, together called Symantec Solutions for Windows. The portfolio includes new versions of the company’s backup and recovery products.

For more on Symantec’s new product introductions click here.  

Back when Symantec’s SAAS offering was first in its pilot stages a year ago, solution providers expressed concerns about pricing and other factors that had yet to be ironed out. Symantec took the advice to heart and delayed general release to its partner ranks for 10 months.

Jonathan Dambrot, one of the managing directors of Prevalent Networks, a Warren, N.J.-based security consulting solution provider was part of the pilot program last year, and then part of the committees advising Symantec on what the Symantec Protection Network (SPN) needed before it was ready for release. SPN is much more fully baked today than it was back then, and Symantec did listen to partner input, he said.

"You are looking at the first steps of software as a service from Symantec," Dambrot said. "There are less expensive solutions out there, but the question becomes who do you trust with your data? Symantec can leverage the products they built, plus it is well trusted."

Symantec’s SPN is being offered two ways – as Symantec Online Backup, which provides backup and recovery services, or as Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec.

By allowing end customers to stay in the familiar interface of Symantec’s Backup Exec 12, the company is creating a hybrid software and SAAS offering. That’s a smart approach, said Dambrot.

"The strategy of having the client of Backup Exec as a leverage point to the Symantec Protection Network is a sound strategy," he said. "You can still use all the functionality of Backup Exec, which is pretty considerable."

It also presents partners with the existing installed base of Backup Exec users as potential sales for Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec, said Randy Cochran, vice president of channel sales at Symantec.

"It’s a way of getting customers to put their foot in the water with Backup Exec release 12," he said.

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