There is nothing more valuable to an organization than its data. This, by extension, means there is no piece of hardware quite so critical to an organization’s success as its servers. What would happen if something were to go wrong with one of them? Would your operations be able to recover?
You can imagine that after almost 25 years in the IT industry we’ve encountered one or two (billion) questions about what server backup options are out there, and what it will cost to implement and maintain one. It’s a question that organizations can’t afford to not ask, and one that we’re always happy to explore in as much depth as is necessary.
When all is said and done, how much should you expect to invest in proper server backup? We’ll explore the elements that most directly influence cost, and walk you through the average price ranges below.
What factors influence the nature of server backup solutions?
When it comes to server backup solutions, you are actually talking about a range of completely different technologies—not a standard base package that you add additional elements. Depending upon what problem you’re trying to solve with your server backup, you could be looking at anything from a simple piece of external hardware, to a full-blown disaster recovery solution that can virtually reconstruct your network in multiple datacenters.
Here are the two main factors that will dictate what sort of server backup solution you’ll need:
1. How quickly will you need to recover in the event of a disaster? Within the week? Within the next three days? Within twenty minutes?
2. How much of your data are you willing to lose? One week’s worth? One day’s worth? Fifteen minutes’ worth?
The answers to these questions not only dictate the type of server backup that you need to implement, but how much that solution is going to cost you. The rule of thumb is this: the lower your tolerance for lost time and data, the more you’re going to have to invest.
What is the average price range for server backup solutions?
Depending upon the factors outlined above, you’ll find yourself in one of three main categories as far as your solution goes:
1. Manual Backup. At the most basic level, you can back up your servers by attaching an external hard drive (an investment of about $100) and manually starting a process that copies your server data onto that drive. The idea is that if your server goes down, you would build a new device and copy the data from the drive onto the new server—a process which takes multiples days at an absolute minimum. These backup jobs aren’t the most trustworthy, and if a disaster were to strike your entire server room, your data is gone for good.
2. Cloud Backup. If your tolerance for lost data isn’t quite so high, you may look to implement a cloud backup solution, which on average will cost you roughly $0.50 to $1.50 per Gigabyte of data you’re backing up on a monthly basis. These solutions—like Mozy, Crash Plan Pro, our own dataShield, and so on—back your server data up directly into a cloud environment, usually on a nightly basis. These backups are much more reliable, and file recovery is quick and easy. While your data is now protected even if something happens to your entire office, you’re still looking at a relatively long process to build a new server and transfer you data onto it.*
*In one especially telling experiment, I attempted to backup 300GB worth of video files from my machine to a cloud backup service. After two months (I repeat: two actual months) of dealing with half-speed Internet while the thing was uploading, the process failed. So, keep that fun fact in mind.
3. Fully-Managed Disaster Recovery. You cannot afford to spend days getting your server back up and running, nor can you afford any doubt whatsoever surrounding the success of your backup jobs. For you, there are far more robust services that take entire snapshots of your server at defined intervals, and transmit these images off-site to multiple datacenters. If your server dies, your backup device uses those images to function as that server, sometimes within as little as 15 minutes. If your server room goes down, you can virtualize your entire network in a datacenter and keep working. This kind of comprehensive, managed solution tends to start at a $500 baseline, with additional $2 to $3 charges per Gigabyte per month.
Clearly there’s a lot to consider—and even more at stake—when it comes to choosing the right server backup solution for your organization. There may be a number of inexpensive, attractive-looking services out there, but don’t forget: this is one area of technology where you get precisely what you pay for.
The best way to approach this service is to work with your leadership team to determine your tolerance for lost time and data, and to work with a technology consultant to land on a solution that will keep you within those boundaries. Once it’s implemented, test it regularly. If you don’t feel confident, make a change.
There is no “re-do” where disasters are concerned.