Here's some moderately big news in the online backup industry: HP has decided to discontinue their HP Upline service.
HP got into this business by buying a company called Opelin. They spent
about a year fixing the product up before launching it as HP Upline. I
tried the service when it first came out and found it to be a little
complicated for the average consumer. Only a few days later, they
experienced an embarrassing outage where the whole service went down
for several days. This was followed by a string of other software
I'm not sure what HP was thinking when they decided
to get into this business in the first place. They aren't in the
antivirus business. They're not in the operating system or firewall
business. What made them think that they could build and operate a
world-class online backup service?
Everyone thinks that
building an online backup service is easy. When I was raising money for
Carbonite, one venture capitalist waved me off saying, "Any engineering
team could design a product like that in a couple of weeks." When I was
teaching at MIT seven or eight years ago, one of my students was fuming
about Google's success, saying "Anyone can write a search engine.
What's the big deal with these guys?" Maybe so, but writing a search
engine that can process tens of thousands of searches per second
against a database that is bigger than all the world's libraries
combined is not so easy.
Same thing holds for online backup.
We have 60 man years of development in the platform that stores your
data. Data comes pouring into our data centers at a rate of about 100
million files every day, or 70,000 files every minute around the clock.
The software and architecture that allows all that data to get onto our
redundant storage arrays without losing even one byte is incredibly
complicated. So while it's easy to back up one PC with one external
hard drive, backing up many hundreds of thousands of PCs that are all
simultaneously sending you data from every corner of the earth, is
quite another matter.
I can understand why HP would want to put
online backup on their PCs – when an HP PC fails and you lose all your
wedding pictures, you are probably going to be mad at HP, not at the
people who make the hard drive inside the PC. But I don't understand
why HP wanted to own a service like this in the first place. They get
their antivirus and other services from 3rd party vendors, and they
should have done the same with online backup. I guess they learned it
isn't as easy as it looks.