Storage Switzerland met with Symform at SNW last week and got an update on this novel cloud storage provider’s offerings. As we discussed in a blog last year, Symform is a cloud storage service that enables customers to use the excess capacity they have available on local servers to create a more economical cloud storage network. Essentially, the company uses a peer type of architecture to aggregate capacity from its users’ environments into a shared pool of cloud storage.
Users download the Symform client and specify which folder they want to upload to the cloud (their “sync” folder). Then they designate a “contribution” folder with the storage capacity they want to provide to the Symform cloud. The Symform client parses the data in its sync folder, encrypts it and disperses it out to the rest of the Symform network. The contribution folder is managed by the Symform cloud and contains pieces of data from the other users throughout the network.
VARs and MSPs that are reselling the Symform service can set up the contribution folder from their own data centers and apply this capacity to their customers’ accounts. This enables them to resell the Symform cloud service without involving their customers in setting up contribution space, etc. They can sell the benefits of data encryption, geo-dispersal and an enterprise cloud service while setting their own prices for the capacity their customers put into the cloud.
Symform’s cost structure is significantly lower than other cloud services, by virtue of its ability to use lower-cost disk capacity that’s already available locally in its clients’ environments — or that’s provided by its partners. Even when procured specifically for the purpose of contributing to the Symform cloud, this capacity is still less expensive on a per-gigabyte basis than the enterprise-caliber disk arrays that regular cloud storage services must acquire, implement and maintain. And, there’s another feature Symform recently announced that resellers can leverage to address a fundamental problem that cloud backup services have.
In its original process, data that’s placed into the sync folder is encrypted, parsed into multiple pieces and then dispersed throughout the Symform cloud. The nodes in this cloud are the contribution folders that all users provide, including, theoretically, the same user that owns that data. In this original scenario, data’s not protected until this entire encryption and dispersal process is complete, which can take quite awhile for smaller users with modest bandwidth.
Symform’s Turboseeding feature separates these two processes and does an export process on the data in the sync folder; that process parses, encrypts and allows the data to be put directly into the contribution folder, which is logically part of the Symform cloud. Or, in the scenario described above, it can be copied to a portable disk drive for transport back to the VAR’s or MSP’s data center.
Users skip the entire initial upload process that makes traditional cloud storage a problem for many businesses. As soon as the Symform client completes the export process, the data is backed up. From that point on, the user is protected and can even start doing incremental backups, without waiting for the initial “cloud seeding” upload process to complete. When the VAR/MSP copies its customer’s data into the contribution folder and completes the upload to the Symform cloud, the customer’s data is available for restores.
Symform is available for users directly, without going through a reseller. But a VAR or MSP shouldn’t have any problem showing its value add by handling the contribution side of the process and providing an instant upload with the Turboseeding feature. Then it can leverage the economics of Symform’s shared cloud architecture to provide a cost-effective cloud backup/storage service with some good margin potential.
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