Consumer appliance maker Storage Appliance Corporation, makers of Clickfree-branded portable backup drives, launched a new connector today that will allow consumers to use their iPod or iPhone as the storage device for PC backups.
As an iPod user myself, I find this a pretty cool concept, especially since it requires no software — according to the website, you plug it in to your computer, plug the iPhone or iPod in, and it starts syncing automatically. The iPod or iPhone can be used in raw disk mode for a similar effect, but in the consumer world, people are generally willing to pay for convenience. This also makes it possible to use the free capacity of the device for data while retaining a music and video collection on the rest of the device simultaneously. The maximum capacity of an iPhone 3G currently is 32 GB; iPod Classics are available in up to 120 GB sizes.
The product, called the Transformer, is available now for $49.99. A device that syncs with external USB hard drives (for truly tiered home backup, I would presume) for $89.99 will be available next month.
The press release also contained this intriguing tidbit:
The new Transformers will also allow customers to retrieve music collections back off their iPhone or iPod. Instead of “orphaning” the content, the new Transformer allow you to retrieve your content quickly and easily.
Apple’s Digital Rights Management encoding makes it impossible to do this with either device by default, in order to prevent unauthorized sharing of copyrighted content among users with a sneaker-net of iPods and iPhones as ‘go-between’ devices. A Storage Appliance Corp. spokesperson said that files protected by Apple’s DRM would need to be re-activated in iTunes after transfer, meaning unauthorized transferred files would be unplayable.
Enterprise storage managers could still find this a good forensics tool for accessing the content on a portable device that might otherwise be automatically wiped when connected to a PC with iTunes; I can also picture it being used at very small companies or home offices for mobile data backups and file transfers.
In general, though the iPhone seems headed for a business role alongside the BlackBerry, the real Holy Grail for enterprise IT will be the ability to virtually provision applications to mobile devices from the cloud on-demand. Citrix has already demonstrated a form of this; Symantec has also talked in the past about offering such capabilities.