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Symantec heads for the cloud with storage and back-up service

Panic button included

Symantec had been winding this pitch for a while now, but the data security giant just lobbed a web-hosted storage and backup service of its very own into play.

Once again Symantec faces off with EMC in a storage rivalry. This time it's the latest storage industry craze of charging customers monthly to have their data backed up over the internet. EMC jumped in first with Mozy late last month. But they're certainly not alone. Add to the fray plenty of smaller firms similarly hosting on-demand web applications, and it's high time for a company to find a hook.

Conveniently, Symantec has backup software to bend in such a fashion — namely Backup Exec. And so the new Symantec Protection Network is split in twain: vanilla Symantec Online Backup, and Online Storage for Backup Exec.

Online Backup is mostly along the lines of other web-based data protection services. It's aimed at small and mid-sized businesses who'd rather put their storage into the hands of another company remotely over the internet rather than deal with the hardware and maintenance themselves.

Symantec's motherly mitts are being beamed in from redundant data centers residing at "undisclosed" locations in North America, according to Chris Schin, Symantec director of product management. These classified data centers are all in-house Symantec jobs, and designed so an entire data center could go offline and the service would still work, said Schin.

[Obviously we're leaping into theoretical optimism here. Even well established web-hosted applications like Amazon S3 and Salesforce.com suffered service hiccups just last week.]

Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec does exactly what you might expect after reading the company's latest gem of clunky branding. Online Storage + Backup Exec. Customers using Backup Exec 12 can see Symantec's hosted storage just like it was local disk storage.

Developing a Backup Exec edition was a major reason for Symantec delaying a commercial release of its web-based backup service, said Schin. The service had been in beta since early 2007, and was originally set to launch late that year or in January this year.

"When we went into beta, people said they liked it — but they also said they already have policies in Backup Exec, and were comfortable with the interface," said Schin. And thus Symantec begat Online Storage for Backup Exec.

Another reason for the delayed release - we've heard rumbling about - is Symantec deciding on a workable price point. But it seems this objective had a secondary priority, as the company still isn't clear about for how much it'll be asking. Or maybe this is the old drug dealer sales trick. Symantec is offering the service free for three months starting February 19. Users can grab a max of 10GB storage to feel it out.

We're sure Symantec will have the bill prepared soon enough. In the meantime, Schin said to expect to pay around $25 per month in addition to charges for storage capacity and features.

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