There is a lot of hype surrounding cloud and I'm usually not one to join the hype but in the case of cloud-based backup and disaster recovery services (I'm trying to use the IT service continuity but it hasn't caught on yet), these service are available today and they address major pain points in IT operations and organizations of all sizes can leverage these services, not just small and medium businesses.
Storage-as-a-Service is relatively new. Today the main value proposition is as a cloud target for on-premise deployments of backup and archiving software. If you have a need to retain data for extended periods of time (1 year plus in most cases) tape is still the more cost effective option given it's low capital acquisition cost and removability. If you have long term data retention needs and you want to eliminate tape, that's where a cloud storage target comes in. Electronically vault that data to a storage-as-service provider who can store that data at cents per GB. You just can't beat the economies of scale these providers are able to achieve.
If you're a small business and you don't have the staff to implement and manage a backup solution or if you're an enterprise and you're looking for a PC backup or a remote office backup solution, I think it's worthwhile to compare the three year total cost of ownership of an on-premise solution versus backup-as-a-service.
If you lack a recovery data center or if you're looking for more a cost-effective solution for your Windows and Linux x86 server farms, I recommend that you evaluate new virtual recovery services. And for anyone who is about to renew their DR services contract, you should evaluate these new services before you resign for another three years of tape-based recovery to oversubscribed, shared IT hardware. These services fill the gap between DR services that rely on replication to dedicated IT hardware which are far too expensive for most organization and tape-based recovery to shared IT hardware, which while affordable, do not meet the recovery time and recovery point requirements of organizations from small to large and acoross industries.
And of course, if you're focused on the availability and recovery of email in particular, well there is a laundry list of service providers that focus cloud-based services for email from including continuity of service, recovery, archiving and if you wanted to, just move your email to the cloud period.
These services already have a toehold in the US but in order to expand into Canada and to Europe, these service providers are busily opening up data centers in these regions. In Canada and the EU, data privacy laws restrict the transfer of data containing personally identifiable information out of region or to a country that doesn't meet the standard of its own privacy laws.
Perhaps I'm too bullish on these services, perhaps organizations still have security concerns with cloud-based services but I think evey IT operations professional must now seriously consider these services when evaluating any backup or DR offering.