A Vancouver-based data storage and protection firm is hoping an alliance with Compaq Canada will boost their national presence and convince more companies to part with traditional taped back-up systems.

Securitinet Storage Solutions recently announced a deal that would see their online data back-up and recovery service pushed through Carepaq, a Compaq reseller program extended to 2,500 VARs across the country.

By installing Securitinet’s software on a company’s servers or to individual desktops, back-ups can be set to take place automatically at specified intervals.

The company’s announcement came less than a week before Hewlett-Packard Co. shook the industry with news of a US$25 billion merger with Compaq. HP and Compaq have since said that existing channel arrangements will remain unaffected until the union receives regulatory approval.

Less than a year in business, Securitinet has already landed some significant customers including the city of Edmonton, the justice department of British Columbia, Qwest Bancorp and Calgary-based Star Oil and Gas.

But the partnership with Compaq has Securitinet president and CEO Lyn Blanchard looking forward to a much bigger client base, particularly with small to medium-size businesses in eastern Canada.

“We want to roll out in Toronto and be a national storage service provider. And as we are a pure play and concentrate entirely on the storage area, we want to catch the wave for that sector,” said Blanchard. “Compaq is trying to move away from just pure hardware sales to value added solutions and our product fits quite nicely into that.”

When Securitinet installed their software at Qwest Bancorp Ltd., a B.C. financial services firm, it took just 15 minutes, says Blanchard. Prior to that it was the receptionist’s duty to do a taped back-up each day.

“Basically she would put a tape in when she remembered. What we did was install our software and all of the back-ups are now done behind the scenes without any human intervention and the data is stored in our storage vaults,” she said. “Within a week of the install, they had a corrupted file, which was worth quite a lot of money to them, and we were able to restore that file for them.”

Fees are based on a gigabyte or megabyte basis and Blanchard refers to the model as “pay as you go, pay as you grow.

“For example, if a dot-com company has a marketing campaign, but they’re not sure of the storage requirements on the transactions that might happen, we can meet those peaks and valleys for a customer.”

By outsourcing data recovery and back-up, Blanchard said companies can treat storage as a service, not a hardware expense.

“We’re an expense item on the income statement — we’re not a capital expenditure for the balance sheet and that is an advantage to IT managers and their companies. They can spend their capital on their core business requirements for IT.”

Even though Securitinet was launched just 11 months ago, Compaq is not concerned about the company’s viability in an unstable market, says Bruce Pearce of Compaq Global Services.

For Compaq, Securitinet was one of the few companies specializing in online back-up a year ago before anyone else was.

“It takes all that administration out of the work and makes it a more appropriate offering and less labour intensive for the end customer,” said Pearce. “And if you consider, How many desktops today or some of the servers are truly backed up? this makes it easy. The software is on the desktop and you identify the files and the frequency and it’s done.”

In fact the partnership may provide the kind of backing smaller companies will need to survive in the coming months, said IDC storage and server analyst Alan Freedman.

“It gives them visibility and credibility in the marketplace. It’s a growing space where you’re really trying to make your mark and trail blaze into a new and developing space where the end users aren’t really confident in it yet. So if you can get the backing of a company like Compaq behind you then that should go to great lengths to helping you succeed in the market.”

What Securitinet will have to worry about down the road are the established vendors like IBM and EDS.

“Companies like that that have established relationships with clients, and are experienced in outsourcing – not necessarily service providing, but outsourcing – and those are companies that the Securitinets of the world are going to have to look out for,” he said.

Some customers may still be uncomfortable with outsourcing their data back-up, said Freedman, noting there will need to be some education to convince them that what Securitinet has to offer is a reliable alternative. It may also become a baby step to outsourcing other storage requirements.

“It’s a bit of a leap of faith, but a smaller leap of faith than if you were just throwing your whole storage department to an ASP. If you can start in little pieces and outsource say your back-up and then part of your primary (storage) and then all of your storage,” Freedman said. “Customers are much more prepared to outsource their back-up than their primary storage and I think it’s only a matter of time until they gain confidence.”

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