Two new startups – Storage Elements and Bitleap -- are getting into the outsourced, online data-protection and -vaulting market for backing up the data residing on enterprise business servers, laptops and desktops.

These companies join Iron Mountain, Arsenal Digital, Seagate’s EVault (supplied by InTechnology in the UK) , Asigra and AmeriVault in a battle for a share of this growing market. According to research from TheInfoPro, nearly a third of Fortune 1000 companies it surveyed use a storage service provider (SSP) for daily backup.

Some customers use SSPs or managed service providers to assist them in backup activities that would burden a small or understaffed IT department. Others use these services to avoid the various problems of backing up and protecting a network.

Greg Schulz, senior analyst for StorageIO, says that online or remote backup operations are a smart idea.

“The market sweet spot for online backup is SOHOs [small offices and home offices] and SMBs [small and midsize businesses], who want to address a lack of IT staff and focus on backups, cost avoidance and enabling data to be placed at an offsite facility,” says Schulz. “Online backups can also benefit those companies with access to adequate network bandwidth and lack a secondary site to back up to.”

Storage Elements, founded three years ago, markets a Web-based data storage and backup service called Digitiliti (think "digital utility" for an idea of how to say it) for Windows, NetWare, Unix, Linux, Macintosh and IBM AS/400 environments. The service backs up data to centers located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., and also offers a bare-metal restoration of data to Exchange, SQL or other failed application or file servers.

Digitiliti takes a single full backup of the customer’s data and subsequently backs up only changed data on a scheduled basis. The backups can be scheduled to occur continuously, hourly or daily, as the user requires. Data is compressed and common files are removed.

For instance, what’s different about Digitiliti compared with other vendors is the removal of common files. If Digitiliti sees more than one copy of Winword.exe – even among other customers backups – it will back up only one copy. If the file has been patched or otherwise affected by some configuration change, it will look to Digitiliti as a unique file, but be backed up only once for that specific customer.

Using the Digitiliti Advanced Backup Engine appliance, customers back up data locally and remotely to Digitiliti’s Fortress Storage Center. It supports storage area networks, network-attached storage (NAS) or direct-attached storage. The company’s smallest customer vaults 5GB of data, the company’s largest, more than 20TB of data.

Because the cost of Digitiliti is based on the amount of data being stored at the Fortress Storage Center, the removal of common data and programs, and the compression of that data make a lot of sense.

BitLeap, founded in June 2004, makes a Linux-based appliance that is installed in customer locations, where it backs up data on a scheduled basis over IP to two BitLeap locations in Carlisle, Pa. The company’s LeapServ Backup Server has local storage and can server as a NAS device for storing data.

The LeapServ service and appliance looks a lot like that of Digitiliti – both are operating system-agnostic, both back up data locally and to two locations, and both have an appliance- or software-only service approach. Also like Digitiliti, common applications between customers are not backed up if they are unique and haven’t been patched. A typical company will pay $50 to $100 a month for BitLeap’s service.

Even EMC is looking at the online data protection and vaulting space, said Joe Tucci, EMC's CEO, chairman and president, in a press gathering at the RSA Conference this week.

“With EMC buying Avamar, it’s only a matter of time before they offer the service directly,” says StorageIO's Schulz. “Too, with Seagate buying EVault [in December 2006] and entering the managed-backup market along with others like HP, this is not coincidence, however, far from the signal that the overall storage service provider market for one and all is returning.”