EMC Gets Serious About Small Business Storage

Over the last five years, many companies have proclaimed their SMB-friendliness through various press releases, conferences and new product lines. Yet when you looked closely, you’d usually find a catch such as “prices starting at $50,000.” These firms were dumbing-down their high-end gear and calling it a small business version – though typically at a big business price. Fortunately, those days are largely behind us, and the enterprise storage world appears to be finally coming to grips with the needs of smaller, more nimble operations.

This became clear at EMC World this year. A few years back, EMC was one of the main culprits. One of its sales people did a presentation that tried to put the square peg of enterprise storage into the round hole of small business. This year, though, they got it right: an entire line of tiny portable hard drives and inexpensive Network Attached Storage (NAS) boxes, as well as a wider range of online backup services.

Many of these devices were fairly dinky in the past, but now the market is gravitating toward larger devices that SMBs can make full use of.

“While the overall market is maturing, growth is shifting toward higher-capacity models,” said Joyce Putscher, an analyst at IT research firm In-Stat. “The 1.5TB+ segment is forecast to see the highest growth, exceeding 100 percent annual growth.”


Instead of trying to move its heavy-duty storage arrays down to the masses, EMC has engaged in a couple of smart acquisitions in order to inherit great technology that is ready for small businesses. It is now developing products specifically for consumers and small businesses using both the resources of recent acquisitions, as well as the R&D might of EMC ($1.7 billion a year on R&D alone).

Iomega is the best known of its new conquests. Part of the EMC fold for just over a year now, it is famous for the Zip Drives that were considered state-of-the-art a decade ago. Now the company has a range of consumer and SMB drives and NAS appliances that are tailored to small business.

“One of our goals is to take the technology that EMC has developed to solve security and data storage needs and channel it to consumer and small business customers at the right price point and in a manner they can adopt,” said Jonathan Huberman, president of Iomega. “Our customers generally don’t have sophisticated IT resources.”

For instance, Iomega has harnessed EMC LifeLine NAS software in conjunction with the Linux operating system in a line of StorCenter network storage appliances. The Iomega StorCenter Pro ix4-100 is a NAS box that a small business can get up and running with four clicks of the mouse once it is plugged in. It provides up to 4TB of capacity and includes anti-virus and encryption software. The 2 TB version costs $800 and the 4 TB unit costs $1,300 (a smaller StorCenter ix2 provides 1 TB for $300). These units support PC, Mac and Linux desktops and laptops.

“The ix4 features the EMC LifeLine operating system, and it incorporates other EMC storage technologies used by the world’s largest organizations,” said Huberman.

The ix4-100 can also accommodate up to three video cameras for video-capture purposes and includes EMC Retrospect backup software. A backup schedule is established during set up, and it automatically backs up new data. Further, a rack-mountable version of the StorCenter is available for SMBs that already own a rack to house multiple servers. The StorCenter Pro ix4-200r can hold up to 4 TB at a price of $2,800. The ix2 can deal with about 50 users while the ix4 can accommodate 100 or more.

Huberman explained that EMC’s traditional lower-end storage product pricing bottoms out around $10,000, whereas Iomega products typically don’t range higher than $3,000 and offer no more than 6 TB of space.  “If your business needs EMC disk arrays, you can’t get away with one of our units,” said Huberman. “But if you really don’t require that level of sophistication, we offer plenty of options.”

For instance, if a business cannot afford any downtime and calls for very high performance, an EMC box would be required, he said. But if you can live with a few hours of downtime to replace a spare part, an Iomega machine would fit well. 

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