Peer-to-peer cloud storage vendor Symform announced it is offering unlimited online capacity to customers who pay by contributing local disk capacity instead of money. Symform uses a crowd-sourcing strategy to create a virtual pool of capacity through the use of peer-to-peer technology.
In 2009, when Symform launched its Cooperative Storage Cloud service, it sold mainly to resellers, who paid $15 a month for unlimited capacity and could then offer that pool of capacity to customers as an off-site disaster recovery backup service.
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Symform's new cloud storage model is targeted to small office and home office users as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. And it's asking those business to contribute their storage capacity at a 2:1 ratio in order to receive the service. That means a user must contribute 2GB of space for every 1GB used.
Users can also simply pay for needed capacity through three service level plans. Symform's professional plan costs $14.99 per month for 300GB of capacity with phone support during business hours; its business plan costs $49.99 for 1TB of capacity for up to two users with priority phone and email support; and a Premier Plan costs $199.99 for 4TB of capacity for up to five users with 24-hour phone and email support seven days a week.
The service plans can also apply to users who choose to contribute storage capacity to the pool instead of paying. For example, the Premier Plan requires users to contribute at least 4TB of capacity to the universal pool. Alternatively, customers can pay 15 cents per gigabyte per month for Symform's cloud backup service. So if they're already contributing 1TB of capacity and they are using more than 500GB of the universal pool (based on Symform's 2:1 ratio) they are charged 15 cents for each gigabyte over and above that 500GB.
The concept of a distributed and disparate storage cloud is not new. More than a decade ago, for example, the University of California's OceanStore project was based on the concept that information could be broken down into many parts, assigned a unique metadata identification tag, encrypted and then randomly stored on systems throughout the world. MIT has a similar project, called Chord, in beta. Symform's cloud storage technology model is similar.
What's different about Symform's concept is the business model -- using small and midsize companies' spare capacity to keep costs down while offering a disparate, yet cooperative, data storage cloud.