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HP readies small biz backup service

Though HP is keeping mum, news has leaked this week about its newest product targeting small businesses.

A startup spilled the beans this week about a deal with Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) that would see HP offer an online automated backup service targeted at the smallest of small businesses next month.

The service, called Spare Backup and currently distributed by a company of the same name, in turn a subsidiary of Newport International Group Inc., provides desktop-level remote backup for small businesses with few employees.

Spare Backup initiates backups automatically. The service starts by scanning a user's hard drive, including desktop and e-mail programs, for files and their components. Then it schedules the data for automatic, remote backup daily, storing files in data centers on both U.S. coasts. New files and existing file changes are recognized automatically as well and added to the backup routine. When needed, users can restore files individually or all at once.

The product also addresses a complication caused by the fact that many existing backups fail to copy registry settings associated with a program. That can result in files being stored in different areas on the hard drive, separate to the configurations required to read them. Spare Backup finds and backs up all such registrations, the company said. The service includes a three-step security process.

Spare Backup charges $15.97 per month for the service which was launched in May.

HP quiet on the details

Meanwhile, there has been some confusion regarding the announcement of the deal with HP, which was published on Business Wire Tuesday morning by Newport but retracted the same day.

According to the retracted press release, HP has agreed "to resell Spare Backup Inc.'s fully-automated online backup service directly through its Web site as early as next month."

The release also stated that "Two months of free service will also be provided as a special promotion to customers who purchase selected hardware and peripherals through the HP site … HP will offer discounted plans of six-months, one-year and two-years prepaid service."

An HP public relations official said in an e-mail that the release from Newport "incorrectly characterizes HP's relationship with Spare Backup" but declined to elaborate on the actual nature of the deal or give a time frame as to when a press release from HP could be expected.

According to Newport's CEO, Cery Perle, he personally brokered a resell deal with Adam Shoemaker in HP's software licensing and management solutions department within the last several weeks. He said Spare Backup finally inked a deal after negotiating with several HP departments.

Shoemaker could not be reached for comment, but colleague, Troy Nick, confirmed that HP has "a relationship" with Spare Backup, but said its press release "was a little premature."

Small business focus

However, there are strong indicators that the release was at least mostly accurate. Offering such a product would be in line with HP's recent push to target small businesses. HP already offers a line of products dubbed "SmartOffice" specifically targeted toward small businesses. Last fall, HP made a joint announcement at Storage Networking World with Microsoft Corp. and QLogic Corp. of an entry-level SAN for small businesses for under $10,000.

Meanwhile, sales to small business customers accounted for nearly a third of HP's $80 billion total revenue, after rising 11% to $24 billion in 2004.

"It appeals to a big proportion of HP's customer base," said Greg Schulz, senior analyst with the Evaluator Group "They need to protect their data, back it up, and do it easily and cost-effectively." He explained that most small companies don't have someone who's capable of configuring complex products like Veritas Software Inc's Net Backup or Backup Exec. "They need something even easier."

According to Schulz, it would also make sense for HP to work with Spare Backup, as it's one of the few products out there that's not owned or made outright by one of HP's competitors.

Other alternatives for remote backup include Asigra Inc.'s Televaulting service, a product from Intradyn Inc. called BackAgain, LiveVault Corp.'s online backup service, EMC Dantz's Retrospect backup software, or Veritas' BackupExec products.

"HP even has their own product," Schultz continued, referring to HP's OpenView Storage Data Protector, "But it doesn't scale down low enough."

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