Storage Hole

Opinion: Will EMC be the one to fill the small-business gap?

EMC CEO Joe Tucci reminded me of a day several months ago when I dropped some hard-earned bucks on storage. The reminder came during a presentation in Cambridge, Mass., at EMCs Innovation Day, in which Tucci announced that his company would be releasing a new storage product for small and midsize businesses—something called HomeStore.

Tucci didnt say exactly what HomeStore is, but, considering what EMC does, I have to assume its some kind of storage for home users or home offices. If thats the case, and I hope it is, EMC is addressing a long-neglected market. Home-based businesses and other smaller businesses need storage just as badly as larger enterprises do. In fact, they may need it more.

I frequently hear from self-employed and small-business people about catastrophes, real and imagined, relating to storage. Usually the catastrophe involves the loss of a computer that wasnt backed up, but, regardless of the reason, the loss of data is serious indeed. In fact, the failure to provide safe data storage for a small business can mean the end of that business, either because the information lost is necessary to make the business run or because the penalties for loss are severe.

Either way, smaller businesses have relatively few options when it comes to deploying business-class storage. Yes, there are some emerging products such as Netgears new NAS (network-attached storage) devices and higher-end solutions such as the Snap 730i iSCSI server I recently reviewed, but, for small businesses, many of these solutions are too limited or too expensive.


Read more here about HomeStore and three other EMC products Joe Tucci announced.

Whats left are some low-end NAS devices that do indeed offer storage capacity, frequently at a very low price. But beyond capacity, you get very little. Theres rarely a means of backing up that storage, and, if theres any software included, its pretty limited. Often youre faced with the prospect of using something thats really designed for backing up an individual computer instead of a business.

The result is that many small businesses either do nothing at all, thus courting disaster, or they do what I did—which is to buy something thats hard to use, inadequate and a partial solution at best. Actually, what I did was wait until Frys Electronics put Buffalo Technologys TeraStation on sale, and then I bought one. My reasoning is that it would hold 750GB of backup data in a RAID 5 configuration. In addition, its small enough that I can grab it on the way out of my office in case of a fire or evacuation.

I realize that this is hardly the definition of a great storage solution. On the other hand, I was self-employed at the time, and its what I could afford. Many small businesses have this problem. They just cant afford to drop $20,000 on storage, even when they know they should.

So they make do with an inadequate solution.

Perhaps thats about to change. While EMC isnt known as being a low-cost provider, it does have a solid reputation for products that work well and reliably. Perhaps EMCs SMB line, currently code-named MAMBA, will provide a much-needed solution. And perhaps HomeStore will be something that the hundreds of thousands of home-based employees can afford and use.

If thats the case, then EMC will fill a need that badly needs filling. If not, well, I guess we can all buy things like the TeraStation, hope it works for us and pray nothing really bad happens.


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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...