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LiveDrive looks to hop across the pond with online data backup

U.K.-based LiveDrive, a competitor to consumer online backup services like MozyHome and Carbonite, is getting U.S. distribution thanks to a new partnership with LifeBoat Distribution.

Online marketing manager Jamie Brown says LiveDrive has 300,000 unique accounts worldwide, 120,000 of them already located in the U.S. LiveDrive creates a network drive that shows up on users’ PCs. Any files sent to that L:\ drive will be backed up to LiveDrive’s cloud; data can be stored there for safekeeping or users can use LiveDrive to keep the L:\ drive synced and share data among multiple machines. Users can also access their data through LiveDrive’s Web portal, which also offers mini-applications that allow users to edit or play back photos and video.

The company has data center infrastructure in the United States through collocation, but currently all users access data through load balancers in the UK. Brown said there are plans to expand the US infrastructure organically, but won’t rush, saying currently users aren’t experiencing performance issues with the way the infrastructure is set up.

After a year, though, Brown said LiveDrive hopes to have an office in the US within 12 months, and may also add a business-level service to compete with services like MozyPro and i365’s EVault Small Business Edition. It currently does not offer service level agreements or geographic redundancy for consumer users.

Despite its claims about its client base, LiveDrive was unable to provide a public customer reference before the announcement this morning.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse said this is becoming an increasingly tough space for new players to differentiate themselves in. “Mozy has more than a million customers, and for Symantec’s SwapDrive the number’s even greater,” she said. “LiveDrive has plenty of formidable competition.”

One factor that might hurt LiveDrive, at least in the beginning, is the fact that data must currently be accessed through the U.K. “Anyone who has discomfort sending data out to the cloud might have more discomfort knowing there’s a geographic distance there,” Whitehouse said. Even if performance isn’t bad, “there could be ramifications if there’s a dispute.”

As for the differentiation of being able to manipulate content within the cloud, Whitehouse said LiveDrive will also face competition from players like Memeo and Ricoh’s Quanp, to say nothing of photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Photobucket, boith of which offer small photo-editing software suites with their services. “It’s somewhat of a Wild West situation right now ith different companies trying to do a ‘land grab’, capturing customers and then building from there,” she said, including LiveDrive in that mix.

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