Every now and then, I use this column to answer my e-mail. This happens when I note the convergence of two important issues: first comes the sudden realisation that I am seriously overdue with replies to the correspondence I have been getting, and second, I think the questions in my inbox raise issues that are of general interest.
And so from time to time I offer, somewhat paraphrased, the interesting issues that readers have asked about.
A reader, writing from Canada, asked:
"During the past year the boundaries between computers, communications and entertainment products are blurring. Home and office functionalities are blurring too. In the very near future most of us will work from digitally wired homes and commute only if our engineering skills and knowledge are required at the spot. How do you see storage applications evolving with that scenario?
"For example fixed storage content that can be accessed repeatedly has been offered to many financial, healthcare and governmental institutions. When will such storage services be offered to individuals? Are you aware of any trusted storage content providers today that can offer this service to mass residential market (for example as a storage extension to the other broadband access service)?"
I dashed off a quick note to the author, but the more I think about this question, the more significant it seems to be. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
It seems clear that at least for the short while at least, backup and recovery for distributed enterprise sites (home offices, for example, but also remote offices) will still be catch-as-catch-can. The technology to take care of that sort of thing is of course available right now from several vendors (CA comes to mind, but there are surely lots more), but most companies still assume a fairly cavalier attitude when it comes to protecting data anywhere outside the IT room.
Two general categories of solutions are available for remote workers. A few companies and remote users are smart enough to invest in remote data protection services from service providers such as eVault or LiveVault. These companies have quietly been providing this sort of thing for a while now, and it seems they have been doing so with great success.
Many more remote workers will continue to be their own IT departments, doing backups and recoveries themselves with products like EMC's Danz Retrospect or IntraDyn's RocketVault appliance.
Most, I fear, just cross their fingers when it comes to data protection and do nothing.
Accessing fixed content is another matter. Wide area file services - typically deploying copies of data to several distributed sites - will become increasingly available to enterprise workers during the next 12 months. But what about making the same service available to individual remote users whose sole bit of corporate connectivity may be a cable modem of DSL connection?
Services such as this could be offered across several types of existing infrastructure, appearing as a value-add offering by everyone from your current broadband provider to your power company (by piggy-backing intelligent signals down the power lines into your house).
Unfortunately, right now it looks like no one is doing much of this. That's too bad, because this sort of service probably would have lots of takers. If anyone out there knows of storage-related services such as this that are becoming available to remote workers, please let me know.