Everyone knows they should back up their personal data files but almost no one does. So what if a piece of software just did it automatically and constantly?
IBM is hoping to take the guilt trip out of the backup process with their latest software the Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files which is aimed at the average user and automatically works quietly behind the scenes like antivirus software.
On Friday IBM announced that they would use Digital River Inc. to distribute the software to consumers through online retailers such as OfficeMax Staples and Circuit City Stores among others. The software also available via download on ibm.com and through other sales channels costs $ per laptop or desktop PC.
"I don't have any data or percentages but I imagine probably less than a quarter of users back up their data" said Dennis Martin senior analyst with Evaluator Group Inc. "When I talk to people and I tell them what I do they say 'Oh I don't do that.' Most users and most home office consumer type users don't think about backup and a lot of their data is at risk. Their hard drive crashes and they lose everything."
IBM became hip to that fact when they released the first version of their Continuous Data Protection (CDP) software last September. The product designed for large enterprises to backup corporate files was a hit. Users began asking if they could use it on their home computers.
"We started getting calls asking 'Can I bring this home? Can I put it on my wife's system or my kid's system?' said Chris Stakutis chief technology officer of the Continuous Data Protection for Files software for IBM. "But we didn't have a distribution system to get the software to the average user so we thought we would need to allow the product to be easily purchased by these types of people. So we changed the product made it simpler cuter and made it usable by the average user."
CDP is a relatively new storage technique that is just starting to gain momentum in the enterprise sector. As the name suggests it constantly saves data to a separate designated location be it a USB drive or network server. The technology also allows the user to restore data at any point in time. It is involuntary meaning it will backup files without the user having to initiate the process.
"Having a setitandforgetit backup solution is a good idea" Martin said. "Most people understand how to do that with antivirus software so this needs to be presented in the same light."
IBM is hoping that the nobrainer feature will help more users want to back up. Stakutis compared CDP to automotive safety featured seat belts and airbags.
"The old model was like seat belts" he said. "You have to consciously remember to put it on. The new model is like air bags. You don't have to remember to do anything. It is just there it is safe and you don't have to think about it."
Analysts seem convinced that the software is a muchneeded commodity. What they are unsure of is whether or not IBM will be successful in convincing the consumer that they need it.
"The issue may have much less to do with IBM's technology than it has to do with their marketing" said Mike Karp senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. "Most people have no idea what CDP means nor should they by the way. They want something that you flip a switch and it takes care of you but I think a lot of the issue is going to be much less a function of how good the product is. I think it's very credible and likely to provide very good value. It has a lot to do with how it's presented."
Karp says that IBM's Web site for the new software is lacking in highlevel information and will not really impress upon users just how important a backup system is.
"If this is for end users the Web site they have they better beef it up in a hurry" Karp said. "It needs a fix it really does. It's good for people like me but I live up to my neck in storage. But for somebody that doesn't it's kind of wishywashy at best.
"But given my druthers I'd be much happier with a product that is sound technically and marketed poorly rather than what we frequently see which is just the opposite" Karp added.