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The Forecast: Partly Cloudy

Cloud ComputingManaged Service Providers (MSPs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) have been using the cloud for the disaster recovery component of data storage solutions for years. Even before it was labeled the cloud, various Internet, networking, and remote access technologies worked together to make remote disaster recovery possible. Microsoft’s “To the Cloud” ads began to give the average person an idea of what the cloud is about (though some argue they misrepresent it). And Apple’s recent promise of iCloud brings buzz about the cloud to the broadest consumer level yet, even catching the interest of those who may have little-to-no understanding of how it works, but love the idea of accessing their photos, videos, and music anytime and anywhere.

Yet it’s easy to wonder: Does the cloud deserve all the attention it gets? Or is it just a buzz word marketers use to add a “coolness” factor to the existing technologies it encompasses like the Internet, virtualization, and remote desktop access?

What is the Cloud?

First, let’s look at one leading definition of the cloud (and I am talking the technology cloud here, not of course the white billowy mass that floats across the sky). Walt Mossberg has my favorite column on the subject, “Learning About Everything Under The ‘Cloud,’” where he says: “at its most basic level, the cloud is the Internet.” When considering this simple definition, one might conclude that calling the Internet the cloud is merely marketing hype – creating a new term for something we’ve all been accessing for years.

However, as Walt also explains in his column, the concept of the cloud is far more than the worldwide backbone of servers that create the Internet—it’s all the possibilities of what can be done using the Internet due to the latest technologies and lightning-fast speeds that let you access large files and applications from web servers instead of solely storing them on your computer or phone. For example:

  • Businesses can manage customer relationships, schedule appointments, run sophisticated marketing programs, backup server images, restore corrupted data, or remotely monitor networks using web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that enable real-time updates and allow many simultaneous users.
  • Consumers can access their email accounts, edit their photos, watch streaming movies, manage their personal finances, access saved files, or play multiplayer online games from any Internet connection.

Given the possibilities, the cloud is clearly worthy of much of the attention it receives. But anyone who has lost an Internet connection can also appreciate the limitations of the cloud. When connectivity is down, your local drives or servers are where you go to access your data. This is why you want your most important data—that is, any data you can’t afford to lose—in a hybrid cloud environment.

When Partly Cloudy is a Good Thing

A hybrid cloud computing environment combines use of local servers with replicated data in the cloud. You might call this a “partly cloudy” approach, but make no mistake: a hybrid data storage solution offers 100% cloud-based protection plus 100% local protection, so your data securely resides in more than one place. If a disaster causes Internet servers to go down, you can keep working off your local servers. If the local servers are corrupted or stolen, you can work off the cloud. The hybrid concept may not receive as much media attention as the cloud itself, but it’s just as exciting.

Axcient’s solution for data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery is an example of what can be done in a hybrid environment. Since backup and retrieval of large amounts of data from the cloud is too slow for many small and medium-sized business’ data needs, Axcient uses both a cloud and an on-premise appliance for file backup and server virtualization. Then, whether there’s a problem with your local servers or your cloud connection, the hybrid solution enables you to be up-and-running without productivity loss.

Axcient: Your Umbrella for a Rainy Day

Whether your CEO’s laptop is stolen, your server data gets corrupted, or your entire office catches on fire, Axcient’s all-in-one hybrid solution allows you to restore the data and continue on with your business. The ability to have that level of protection along with business continuity is definitely worth the attention it’s getting – it’s what Axcient is offering SMBs every day through MSP and VAR partners, and it’s why Axcient has won awards like the Autotask Community Live 2011 “Best in Show” Award, Business Solution Magazine’s Best Channel Vendor 2011 Award, Red Herring’s Top 100 Tech Startups for 2011, and the 2011 HP AllianceONE Partner of the Year Award. Clearly, partners and industry leaders see that the Axcient hybrid solution is worth getting excited about!

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