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Symantec's Safe SaaS Step

Symantec  today announced a beta program that will allow small- and medium-sized business (SMB) customers to subscribe to a data back-up and recovery service for free.

The Symantec Protection Network (SPN) will become generally available later this year and will allow customers to reduce their IT costs by outsourcing the hardware and maintenance of an on-premise back-up and retrieval system. It will also allow them to store their data off-premise, which reduces their exposure to risks, like flooding, which could destroy both their live data as well as their back-ups.

Eventually, the infrastructure security software vendor plans to offer other network security products as services. "This is a first service. It's part of an overall platform to [eventually] deliver multiple services," Jeff Hausman, senior director of product management, told internetnews.com.

According to Hausman, those services will be tailored to meet the security needs and budgets of SMBs. "Their needs are analogous to a larger company, but they don't have the resources of an enterprise," he said.

Customers will be able to access the service through a Web browser and create a back-up of their data by identifying themselves using a pass phrase that is known only to them and a third party escrow service.

Once an initial back-up has been made, subsequent back-ups will store only the changes, allowing Symantec to reduce storage usage and thus charge customers less. Despite the fact that the system only stores changes from one version to another, customers can get a full restore of whatever version they chose, and can do so from any location.

Symantec intends to market SPN through its reseller channel; Hausman said that most SMBs acquire IT products and services through value-added resellers, and noted that Symantec currently works with over 50,000 such channel partners.

The company has not released pricing details, but said it would be a monthly subscription service with pricing based on how much capacity is used.

Bob Laliberte, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, said the timing is right for Symantec to dip its toe into SaaS waters.

"The SMB market is really favoring outsourcing these types of activities," he told internetnews.com.

Still, Laliberte noted, Symantec will have to convince its customers that it can deliver the same value they offer with their software in a service mode. If they do, pure-play SaaS vendors like Postini, Iron Mountain, MessageLabs and others will have a serious competitor to contend with.

"It's certainly going to increase market competition, which will ultimately be a good thing for the customers," he said.