What if I told you that there was a cloud storage model that hinged on MSPs storing blocks of customer data with just shy of a hundred randomly selected strangers? Now, what if I told you that at least 1,200 channel pros have already signed up? Enter Symform and their Cooperative Storage Cloud, which relies on a “share and share alike” model to provide cheap, rapidly-available off-site storage to managed service providers and their customers.

The idea is simple, says Symform Marketing Programs Manager Leif Espelund: local storage is worlds cheaper per gigabyte than cloud storage. So for a low, flat fee and a commitment to dedicate storage capacity on your network to others in the Cooperative Storage Cloud, costs are cut and speed is increased all along the chain, up to a factor of ten, the company says -- no centralized data center means no centralized data center costs to support.

But there is a mastermind behind all free-swapping of data. Espelund explained that Symform Cloud Control, which itself is hosted with Amazon Web Services, takes each 64MB block of data, deduplicates it, chops it up into 64 pieces, smartly makes redundant copies of 32 of those bits for a total of 96 chunks per data block, and spreads them to machines running the Symform client in the background. And thanks to 256-bit encryption, no one on the storage side can make use of your data. If you contribute 1.5TB of storage to the cloud, that’s how much data you can store for that flat fee, as I understand it.

It sounds a little to me like a storage application of distributed computing concepts pioneered by alien-hunting supergrid SETI@Home. But it’s apparently serious business, and Symform has launched a storage exchange where partners can resell excess capacity beyond their needs to those without ample enough bandwidth to fully contribute to the co-op. That aspect sounds like farmers who make their own electricity selling it back to the power company.

And most importantly for readers of MSPmentor: Espelund says that Symform only deals with the channel, not least because it requires some work to get set up. But he also says it makes for an ideal value-added service for the channel: Some SMBs don’t care where their data is kept, within limits, and if they’re already dealing with an MSP who can make it all happen in the background, so much the better.

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