Symantec has launched a hosted back-up service for small to mid-size businesses, the Symantec Protection Network.

According to Jeff Hausman, Symantec's senior director of product management, the first step a customer takes to use the service is to install a lightweight agent on servers requiring back-up. Then they use a web-based management application to select the files to be periodically backed up.

"The service will collect only specific changes and send them encrypted to be backed up," Hausman said. "The data is actually encrypted on the client side. It will take regular snapshots, it knows what's in the machine and it can detect an opened file if you close it. It's always-on protection."

Hausman says some components of the Symantec Protection Network are derived from the BackUp Exec product line acquired when it merged with Veritas. In future, Symantec may provide an optional backup service for BackUp Exec in a way similar to the Symantec Protection Network offering.

The server data that's backed up for Symantec Protection Network customers is stored in two Symantec data centres in North America at a location that Hausman declined to disclose.

The price for the service, now in beta, won't be announced until the Symantec Protection Network backup and restoration is generally available at future date yet to be determined. Symantec also expects to offer backup for desktops at some point in the future.

The Symantec Protection Network comes on the heels of the rollout of Symantec's consumer back-up and restoration service, Norton 360, based on the Norton 360 desktop security software for Microsoft Windows Vista and XP that also includes antivirus, firewall protection and website authentication capabilities.

According to Norton 360's senior product manager Mark Kanok, the consumer back-up service is charged at annual subscription prices that range from $29.95 for 5GB of storage to $79.95 for 25GB of storage.