StorageTek has produced a new service to protect distributed information.

ViaRemote provides off-site back-up and recovery for remote offices, mobile users and businesses, and comes with 'pay-as-you-go' pricing. It also makes StorageTek the first major storage product supplier to offer an electronic vaulting service.

Backing up over a network avoids the risk associated with losing back-up tapes when transporting them to a vault. However, users are completely dependent on the network link being available all the time. If it goes down then back-ups don't happen.

Iron Mountain, probably the tele-vaulting market leader, InTechnology and BT also offer electronic vaulting.

Software on a storage appliance at a customer's site sends selected files over a network link to an electronic or tele-vaulting centre where the data is backed up. Customers can then recover data from the vault if need be. They don't have to run their own back-up processes or buy and maintain their own back-up hardware, software and media.

It is supposed to be best suited to branch offices where the costs and impracticalities of running local back-up processes often means data is unprotected.

Eula Adams, VP Global Services for StorageTek, said: "The costs and risks associated with managing and protecting geographically dispersed data can be overwhelming. We are offering the remote mastery of branch office data recovery and backup."

StorageTek offers the service through a partner, Arsenal Digital Solutions. The vaulted data is stored at a secured Arsenal facility with 24x7 support. Arsenal uses Avamar software.

Customers may be willing to let a third-party back-up their remote office data because it is a lot cheaper than having back-up gear and processes at each branch office. Conversely they may decide to back-up their own remote offices at a consolidated data centre. Microsoft's DPM can be used in this way. Then they possess their backup data at all times.

ViaRemote starts at $20 per GB per month (£11) and is only available in the US at the moment. We understand that StorageTek in Europe is evaluating offering the service. The Iron Mountain service is priced at £15 to £25 per user per month in the UK depending upon volume.