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Hamilton--ASPs Are Poised to Strike

February 2000
Remember when Macs started shipping with nine-gig drives? Although that seemed like a lot of storage space at the time, it sure didn't take long before it was filled to the brim.

Today, most printers and prepress shops now use client-server configurations with RAIDS attached to servers to store clients' files, along with a variety of tape and other backup/archival systems.

Yet, no matter how big the drive, one thing seems constant: You can never have too much storage capacity. And although drives continue to get cheaper, managing data storage is one of those headaches that never seems to go away.

Until now, maybe.

The latest buzzword going around IT circles these days is ASP. Though supposedly unrelated to the deadly snakes of Africa, Application Service Providers are a new genus in our midst. Like the term "consultant," it is an incredibly vague term that can mean just about whatever the speaker wants it to mean. In our little world, one of the ways in which ASPs are likely to take form (bite?) is by providing off-site data storage and management services.

Wideband Communications
With T-1 lines rapidly falling in price—and ADSL, frame relay and other technologies poised to move into widespread use—the feasibility of installing wideband telecommunications is growing for many shops, even relatively small ones. And the ability to off-load the entire data storage and management burden to a third party, which can dedicate itself to that particular task, may make sense for shops that barely have time to get the jobs done in time for the press run.

Besides the ability to eliminate the cost of buying, maintaining and constantly upgrading their storage systems, another benefit of this approach to data management is that it provides a form of fault tolerance because files can be stored at two or more locations (at the printer and at the ASP site; or at two separate sites operated by the ASP).

If digital asset management is ever going to become the profit center that some have predicted, this type of redundancy will certainly be a necessary component. And even if it doesn't, the liability issue certainly won't go away.

So far, WAM!NET and Vio have both announced services targeting this potential niche, which is a natural complement for their wideband telecom services, and some prepress VAR/integrators are looking into this as a standalone service, as well. While pricing models are still taking form, costs will be predicated on the volume and duration of storage. Database development and customized archival services, among others, will be the value-added that ASPs will most likely bundle with the disk space.

 

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