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At a time when there’s both a lot of positive buzz about how cloud-based systems can save your company money and horror stories of what could happen if your cloud services fail, mid-sized companies may be looking for other options to cut costs and simplify their in-house systems.

Storage provider Nimble Storage came out of beta last August with an appliance designed to target these companies. When it launched, it expected to sell 15 of its $50,000 to $90,000 appliances by the end of 2010. Instead, it sold 40. By the end of the first quarter of 2011, It had sold 40 more. The San Jose-based startup was founded in 2008.

“We’ve hit on a real need and challenge in the marketplace,” says Dan Leary, Nimble Storage’s vice president of marketing. “Mid-sized companies don’t have large IT departments to figure all this stuff out. With Nimble, we can do it for them.”

One Nimble customer, Evangelical book publisher Augsburg Fortress, had a data center flooded with servers. Some were old, some were new. Some were used for active storage, some only for back-up. Monthly fees for expanding storage into the cloud were becoming crippling. The rapidly-expanding company was operating on the verge of being overwhelmed.

When CFO John Rahja sought ways to save money and expand capacity at the same time, he took a look at Nimble’s appliance, which combines both primary and back-up storage in one box. After deploying the appliance, Augsburg Fortress was able to stop paying monthly fees entirely, save energy, and eliminate maintenance fees on all the old storage equipment. The system also delivered new virtualization functions.

“The motivation was cost, first of all, but we’ve ended up with a more robust and streamlined data center that’s less likely to fail and that has more current technology than our old-style server farm,” Rahja said.

Mike Brester, the systems administrator at MulvannyG2 Architecture in Bellevue, Wash., turned to Nimble after his company hit a perfect storm. “We were at the point where all of the gear we had was at its end of life, or their maintenance contracts were up,” Brester says. “We realized that with Nimble we no longer needed four or five different products to do everything Nimble could do for us in one appliance.”

Besides that, Brester says, his experiences with cloud services have been less than ideal. Getting to keep all of Mulvanny’s data under its physical roof was an attractive alternative. Even disaster recovery has become less of a potential nightmare.

“We changed around our entire back-up strategy,” he says. “Now we know the maximum data we would lose in a disaster is two hours’ worth of work. Performance is by far better. And we know when we grow, we can just add a second appliance without having to change any of our processes again. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a company willing to take the chance and go with bleeding-edge technology. That’s really paid off here.”