Hot Spots: Don't let SaaS costs sneak up on you


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Backup services can save hardware and staffing costs, but beware of surprise fees.

ORGANIZATIONS GO TO great lengths to ensure there are no surprises in their operational environments. Even so, several well-publicized events involving backup storage as a service (SaaS) have exposed costly vulnerabilities in a number of shops. Given that SaaS is new to many firms, it's understandable that some possible scenarios simply weren't considered in the review process. When evaluating backup SaaS, it's important to know every detail of your current backup system and backup budget.

Caught up in the competitive frenzy to win new customers, some backup SaaS vendors have been dropping prices to new lows. A gigabyte of storage is a gigabyte of storage, right? Not really. The volume of storage required for a pair of socks and your great-grandmother's pearls might be comparable, but the more valued item might warrant improved security and storage conditions. Companies considering backup SaaS can't confuse basic file storage and recovery for PC data with the sort of storage and data recovery required for mission-critical apps. Some IT shops, perhaps blinded by the relatively low cost of using backup services rather than coordinating an in-house backup process, may have ignored initial concerns. But now that SaaS is growing up, with more mature storage

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vendors entering the space and many newcomers offering solid products, it's time to get serious about evaluating these products. When determining whether SaaS is right for you, it's also crucial to look beyond the initial price of the service.

In reviewing backup SaaS solutions, it's clear there are different classes of service with price points to match. The newest backup SaaS contenders, or those catering to a less-demanding user, lack administrative features to manage backup and recovery for a large set of users or more complex environments. These services are inexpensively priced and simple to understand and initiate. Veteran vendors, or those with customers who have higher level requirements, have applied the same level of standards in use for decades for traditional, on-site backup software. These more robust solutions may be accompanied by a higher premium and a more formal sales process.

If buying a home were based solely on size and cost per square foot, the process would be simple. But there are so many other factors to consider--location, school systems, tax rates and trash collection--that influence price. Similarly, backup SaaS decisions can't be based solely on cost per gigabyte. Several key factors must be considered to mitigate future risk and understand the overall value of backup SaaS.

This was first published in October 2008

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