EMC Gets Serious About Small Business Storage

Tuesday Aug 18th 2009 by Drew Robb
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Through the acquisition of both Iomega and Mozy, EMC offers a range of storage options designed specifically for small business needs.

Over the last five years, many companies have proclaimed their SMB-friendliness through various press releases, conferences and new product lines. Yet when you looked closely, you’d usually find a catch such as “prices starting at $50,000.” These firms were dumbing-down their high-end gear and calling it a small business version – though typically at a big business price. Fortunately, those days are largely behind us, and the enterprise storage world appears to be finally coming to grips with the needs of smaller, more nimble operations.

This became clear at EMC World this year. A few years back, EMC was one of the main culprits. One of its sales people did a presentation that tried to put the square peg of enterprise storage into the round hole of small business. This year, though, they got it right: an entire line of tiny portable hard drives and inexpensive Network Attached Storage (NAS) boxes, as well as a wider range of online backup services.

Many of these devices were fairly dinky in the past, but now the market is gravitating toward larger devices that SMBs can make full use of.

“While the overall market is maturing, growth is shifting toward higher-capacity models,” said Joyce Putscher, an analyst at IT research firm In-Stat. “The 1.5TB+ segment is forecast to see the highest growth, exceeding 100 percent annual growth.”

Iomega

Instead of trying to move its heavy-duty storage arrays down to the masses, EMC has engaged in a couple of smart acquisitions in order to inherit great technology that is ready for small businesses. It is now developing products specifically for consumers and small businesses using both the resources of recent acquisitions, as well as the R&D might of EMC ($1.7 billion a year on R&D alone).

Iomega is the best known of its new conquests. Part of the EMC fold for just over a year now, it is famous for the Zip Drives that were considered state-of-the-art a decade ago. Now the company has a range of consumer and SMB drives and NAS appliances that are tailored to small business.

“One of our goals is to take the technology that EMC has developed to solve security and data storage needs and channel it to consumer and small business customers at the right price point and in a manner they can adopt,” said Jonathan Huberman, president of Iomega. “Our customers generally don’t have sophisticated IT resources.”

For instance, Iomega has harnessed EMC LifeLine NAS software in conjunction with the Linux operating system in a line of StorCenter network storage appliances. The Iomega StorCenter Pro ix4-100 is a NAS box that a small business can get up and running with four clicks of the mouse once it is plugged in. It provides up to 4TB of capacity and includes anti-virus and encryption software. The 2 TB version costs $800 and the 4 TB unit costs $1,300 (a smaller StorCenter ix2 provides 1 TB for $300). These units support PC, Mac and Linux desktops and laptops.

"The ix4 features the EMC LifeLine operating system, and it incorporates other EMC storage technologies used by the world's largest organizations,” said Huberman.

The ix4-100 can also accommodate up to three video cameras for video-capture purposes and includes EMC Retrospect backup software. A backup schedule is established during set up, and it automatically backs up new data. Further, a rack-mountable version of the StorCenter is available for SMBs that already own a rack to house multiple servers. The StorCenter Pro ix4-200r can hold up to 4 TB at a price of $2,800. The ix2 can deal with about 50 users while the ix4 can accommodate 100 or more.

Huberman explained that EMC’s traditional lower-end storage product pricing bottoms out around $10,000, whereas Iomega products typically don’t range higher than $3,000 and offer no more than 6 TB of space.  “If your business needs EMC disk arrays, you can’t get away with one of our units,” said Huberman. “But if you really don’t require that level of sophistication, we offer plenty of options.”

For instance, if a business cannot afford any downtime and calls for very high performance, an EMC box would be required, he said. But if you can live with a few hours of downtime to replace a spare part, an Iomega machine would fit well. 

At the low end of the Iomega line come a series of eGo portable hard drives that are super simple to use. You plug it into the USB-port of your computer – just like a thumb drive – in seconds it recognizes the system and is ready for use. These are available in four colors with up to 500 GB of capacity. The dimensions are half an inch thick, 5.375 inches long and 3.5 inches wide, and it weighs in at seven ounces.

While these see devices heavy use in the consumer market, they are also popular among professionals who want to take their data on the road with them. They can be looked upon as a more robust repository compared to thumb drives, which are relatively flaky and not to be trusted with backups, for example.  They come with McAfee VirusScan Plus anti-virus software (six months free) included, and they can survive a drop of 51 inches without failing.

This is quite important. A WD drive of mine (containing everything I’d written throughout my career) was knocked off a table at a hotel, which resulted in a catastrophic failure. Despite the best efforts of Western Digital, absolutely nothing could be recovered despite the efforts of an outside data-recovery firm.

The eGo comes in three sizes: 250 GB, 320 GB and 500 GB. It’s protected by a series of backup programs such as: Iomega QuickProtect for simple backup of files; EMC Retrospect for backup of data, applications and settings; and Mozy for online backup – 2 GB available for free.

Pricing starts at $85 for 250 GB, $95 for 320 GB and $135 for 500 GB. In addition, a BlackBelt eGo provides 500 GB as well as the ability to survive a fall of seven feet for $140.

“If your laptop doesn’t put out enough power to run the eGO device via its USB port, we have a double port version that solves this issue,” said Huberman. “eGo is used by consumers, SMBs and individuals in large enterprises.”

Mozy Becomes Decho

EMC’s other primary SMB storage arm is Mozy – now known as Decho (short for digital echo). Decho is the merger of Mozy and another EMC acquisition known as Pi Corp. Fortunately, the Mozy brand will remain as it is well known among consumers and SMBs. According to Steve Fairbanks, Decho’s director of product management, Mozy has one million users including 30,000 businesses using the SMB version known as Mozy Pro. That adds up to over 15 petabytes (PB) of data stored.

Mozy Pro costs $3.95 per desktop per month and 50 cents per gigabyte, with servers costing $5.95 per server per month plus 50 cents per GB. A 2-GB home version is available for free.

Integration with EMC Retrospect backup software is ongoing. Mozy Home already has it and Mozy Pro will shortly. That will let companies use Mozy for online backup and also make a local backup copy using Retrospect. Better data encryption has also been added. “Mozy Pro removes 75 percent of the cost of backup for SMBs,” said Fairbanks. “For businesses using the Mac, a Mac Pro version will be launched in the fall.” 

In addition, more Decho services should be made available by the end of this year, though no one is saying exactly what these are. Iomega and Decho are partnering, which should result in combined offerings in the near future.

SMB Storage Boom

Storage devices will only become more necessary for small businesses. According to research firm IDC, There were 3,892,179,868, 480,350,000,000 bits of data created in 2008: that’s nearly four sextillion.

“As the economy deteriorated in late 2008, the pace of digital information created and transmitted actually increased,” said John Gantz, an analyst at IDC.

He predicts a doubling of the digital universe every 18 months. Small businesses need to plan ahead to provide enough capacity in their storage environments and to supply their employees with additional storage devices.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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