Google's Lenoir, North Carolina Data Center, seen during construction, could be one of several sites that could provide business continuity and peace of mind for netizens everywhere.
I've heard this story too many times.
"I got back from vacation and my computer crashed. I lost everything."
"Years of work were destroyed in one second. I had no backup."
"My backup media was years old... it was useless when I tried to perform a restore."
"I accidentally over-wrote my good backups with old backups. Now I'm screwed."
And so on. And so on.
I've tried, of course, to educate people on the subject of backups. But as they say, you can lead a reindeer to water, but you can't make him drink.
You can tell someone they need backups, but then there's the issue of backup discipline. You need to get them to install a backup solution, and then they have to be disciplined about keeping their backups up to date and in a safe place.
Large enterprises often use off-site backups in addition to locally replicated storage to protect their most important data. I'm of the opinion that this method is probably the safest strategy because it removes most of the Murphy's law concerns of having all of your eggs in one basket, aka in a single facility where external acts-of-God disaster scenarios (floods, fires, terrorism, etc) could destroy your secondary or even tertiary backups.For end-users and small businesses, off-site backups are uncommon. Yes, there are several services out there such as Carbonite and Iron Mountain Connected Backup that will charge you a yearly fee (in Carbonite's case, $54.95) to replicate your critical data, automatically over the Internet, and store it for you.
In the event that you incur a data loss, they have a web-based GUI for restoring whatever you've lost. I've also recently heard some good things about Mozy, which is owned by storage giant EMC, and is comparable in cost to Carbonite.
Carbonite is definitely a good solution and so is Iron Mountain. However, with many users, sending data out to the cloud is an issue of trust as well as cost. Certainly, Iron Mountain is one of the biggest and most established names in the biz from a large enterprise standpoint, but their small biz and personal backup service is a bit pricey.
For Internet-based backup to become popular, a large player that is a household name needs to come into the picture. And in terms of the Internet, no other company worldwide has the brand recognition or the massive distributed infrastructure of Google.
Let's face it, if Google were to provide an Internet-based backup service, call it "ChromeVault" or "GStor" or whatever, a large group of the "I don't want/don't know how/don't trust Internet backup" folks would immediately shift to that service.
Not convinced? If the size of GMail's user base is any indication, and if only ten to twenty percent of that number were to start using that service, it would dwarf the size of Carbonite's and Iron Mountain's customer base overnight.
I think that it would behoove Google to snatch up an established player like Carbonite or to home-brew a backup service of their own.
Let's face it, a lot of people already use GMail for backup, but not in the way you'd traditionally work with an Internet-based backup service -- they email themselves their own critical files and documents. It's a kludgy, yet effective way of storing your important data. I keep probably 100 critical files in my GMail account, labeled under "Critical Documents".
What really is needed here is something that is integrated with Google Desktop, which already uses Google's cloud to allow you to index and search documents stored locally on your hard drive. In addition to local search services, it would include a backup agent that would have a wizard-based, easy to use program with a Web UI that would find critical files such as office documents, PDFs, and other user-designated critical directories and file types for sync to their Google account.
An intelligent agent of this type should also be able to distinguish the difference between various document types so that PDFs and Office files would get cataloged in Google Docs, and home videos and photos would get moved into private (or public) Picasa Web Album galleries.
The beauty of this cloud sync approach is that from a Google strategic perspective, it would accelerate the process of moving everyone to Chrome OS and towards the use of the cloud. If all your key data is already backed up and stored in the Google cloud, then you've already populated your Chrome OS web-based environment with useful data.
Similarly, if I have my Android phone and am away from my computer(s), I can retrieve and view my critical data at any time, because my desktop agent is constantly syncing them when they change.
Currently, Google charges $50.00 a year for a 25GB GMail mailbox. While $50.00 for strictly mail is a good deal, I'd rather put that 25GB to more use than just mail. What I really want is a variable pricing structure for free (currently, Google is giving me 7.4GB for nothing) as well as paid 25GB, 50GB and 100GB+ accounts where I can flexibly store WHATEVER I want in the cloud, be it mail, critical office files, or my digital photos, from multiple machines and devices.
Google isn't the only company that could do this, of course. Any of the big Tier 1 system manufacturers, such as HP, Dell and Apple should be able to give their customers this sort of piece of mind and cloud storage flexibility.
Perhaps even Amazon, who has already built an elastic computing cloud and cloud storage infrastructure. Even traditional document management companies, such as Ricoh, with their quanp service that is currently in late beta testing, are getting into the game of "Life Storage". And dare I say it, despite the recent T-Mobile Chernobyl, Microsoft in partnership with Yahoo should also be offering these "unified life storage and backup" services as well.
Do you want "Google Backup" for Christmas? Talk Back and Let Me Know.