Arsenal Digital: A New Take on an Old Strategy

With Arsenal Digital's service, an off-site backup company can set itself up as an electronic vault.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve enjoyed hearing Arsenal Digital Solution’s story at several conferences. On the chance that you haven’t heard about the Cary, NC-based firm (and unless you are in the telecom business, you probably haven’t), we’ll clue you into them here.

The company refers to itself as a provider of “on-demand data protection and business continuity solutions.” What they are really into is teaching telcos how to sell storage services: currently in the area of backup, but in the future (we hope) in other aspects of storage management, too.

Arsenal Digital has managed to do what few of the first generation storage service providers (SSPs) failed to do at the turn of the Millennium: survive. While the company has many of the same trappings as earlier SSP name brands—custom software, co-location data center facilities, a network-based operation center, etc.—it has something else: a marketing plan that resonates with network service providers and telcos.

With Voice-over-IP and cellular services eating into the profits from traditional long distance dial-up services, and specialized competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) popping up like ants at a picnic, telco stalwarts such as AT&T have been getting out of the long distance business and showing markedly greater interest in data tone than dial tone. That’s where Arsenal comes in.

The problem with most traditional telephone companies is that they are pretty clueless about doing anything but POTS (plain old telephone service). Arsenal has found its home by packaging a neat set of data backup technologies into a portal-based service that telcos can easily re-brand and deliver to their business clientele. Arsenal Digital makes the whole thing as drool proof as possible, and backs up the portal with stellar service.

We aren’t talking rocket science here: backups are backups and the idea of doing them across a wide area network (WAN) traces its origins to the days of the mainframe and channel extension (back when this columnist was first cutting his IT teeth). With the Arsenal Digital service, an off-site backup company can set itself up as an electronic vault, and data can be restored either to the customer site or his recovery site via a network as well.

Arsenal has updated this strategy with an implementation of Avamar Technologies’ commonality factoring technology, a byte compression-qua-archive-qua-data management solution that makes the volume of data to be backed up much, much smaller, thereby enabling even comparatively small network pipes to be sufficient for moving Terabits of backup data. E-vaulting, like multi-hop disk mirroring, used to be the exclusive domain of the deep pocketed members of the Fortune 500: telcos with Arsenal Digital’s portal can now make e-vaulting available at a price that just about every company can afford.

The value to the telco (assuming that it doesn’t want to be in either the off-site storage or recovery hot site business) is, of course, the network connection. Storage services make the network more valuable to the consumer, and Arsenal’s primary clientele is banking on revenues from this value-add.

What really makes the service work, however, is a combination of quality network implementation services (the telco’s domain) and quality implementation and management services (Arsenal Digital’s domain). Thus far, this combination has resulted in over 800 successful implementations via network service providers ranging from OpenAccess, a network services provider in Melville, NY, to Con Edison Communications, to AT&T and NTT/Verio.

This is one win-win scenario we are happy to recommend. Ping the guys at Arsenal Digital to find out if there is a telco in your neck of the woods that can help you offload your backup process. One caveat, though: it is virtually impossible to outsource a problem, so you may want to ask for some assistance getting your backups streamlined before you try to give the problem away.

Let me know how things work out.

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.