As the cloud applications market matures so, too, are the platforms rising up to provide data backup services for the most prominent among them, especially Salesforce.com and Google Apps.
One enterprise-class service that focuses on supporting Google environments is Spanning, developed by a three-year-old startup from Austin, Texas. Spanning was originally launched for backing up Docs, Calendar, Drive and Contacts, but it now handles Gmail and Sites as well.
This is a well-backed company: it has at least $9 million in venture capital (that we know of) from strategic investors including The Foundry Group and One-Who-Prefers-Not-To-Be-Named. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
In any case, Spanning has put that money to good use. The data centers hosting its backup services have earned multiple security and privacy certifications, including SSAE 16 Type II certification, TRUSTe, US-EU and US-Swiss SafeHarbor Frameworks. The service itself is backed with a 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement.
Jeff Erramouspe, chief revenue officer for Spanning, said the company supports approximately 2,500 business customers -- most of them with 100 to 1,000 employees on their payroll. (That gives it roughly 70,000 seats across those companies.)
One example of a pretty typical customer is Real Goods Solar, a fast growing solar installer, he said. When the company first split away from its corporate parent, it had to find a solution for its IT infrastructure quickly and figured cloud was the best option for its distributed workforce. It turned to Google Apps and storage to manage a huge volume of data -- up to 3 terabytes including lots of unstructured information, like AutoCAD site diagrams and spreadsheets.
"These are mission-critical items, and we had to make sure that all of our accounts were backed up," said Joe Thielen, former director of IT for the company. (Thielen has since moved onto another position, but he was authorized to speak on behalf of Real Goods.)
That's where Spanning came in. Real Goods represents a midsize company installation: up to 350 users are using its Google deployment at any given moment. It took the company an afternoon to get its users set up and backing up with Spanning. "It represents a tremendous productivity gain, without a major outlay," Thielen said.
The video below walks you through how to protect Google Apps with the Spanning service.
Generally speaking, the backup process happens much the same as it would if the company were using a traditional process: that is to say, overnight. The restoration scenario is about the same as if it were using tape: approximately three to four hours depending on the size of the files involved, Thielen said. That's at least as quick as the process of working with a traditional backup supplier to bring up tapes stored off site and usually quicker, he said.
So far, Real Goods has lived through one major restoration, which occurred when an unknown user accidentally deleted a set of mission-critical data.
The pricing for an individual Spanning account is $40 per year with unlimited storage. The same pricing applies for domain accounts (it's $40 per year, per user). Education and non-profit organizations are entitled to a 25 percent discount.
What about the stuff you need to back up that doesn't live in Google? Spanning actually has a co-promotional relationship with Mozy, the cloud storage service owned by EMC. Right now, this isn't much more than a marketing agreement, but the companies have pledged to "cooperate on future product development opportunities." That could prove really interesting down the road.