6 variables affecting the price of backup services

A photograph of a man at a computer desk by a large window. He is working on a laptop.

Backup systems are essential to IT disaster recovery and minimizing IT downtime. But what affects the prices of the different services? Why does the cost vary between applications and services? What is the actual cost of backup services?

The answer is, "Well, it depends on what you want from your backups." The higher your expectations, the higher the price tag. This article breaks down the variables that can affect your backup services and price.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients build IT strategies, including IT incident response plans, IT backup and recovery systems, and IT continuity plans.

By reading this article, you will learn about the six variables that affect the price and scope of backup services.

6 things that can affect the cost of backup services

1. Recovery time objectives

Your recovery time objective (RTO) dictates how quickly you want to be online after an IT disaster. Usually, this is dictated by the amount of time you can afford to be down before unacceptable losses occur.

The smaller your RTO, the larger the investment in your backup system becomes.

Your RTO goals will dictate how often you back up systems and data. The more frequently you create backups, the more expensive this becomes. More frequent backups require more space and potentially more monitoring and additional services. This increases cost.

For example, if you want your RTO at zero, this requires instantaneous replications. The resources and cost needed to accomplish this RTO would be like building two companies' worth of data.

It's important to note that backups are not IT continuity. Continuity saves and restores data in real time, while backups save data within a set timeframe. The smaller this timeframe (and the smaller your RTO), the more expensive your backups become.

2. Backup types

Backups come in two varieties: file-based and image-based backups. File-based may be more affordable, but it is also more limited and takes longer to recover.

File-based backups only store individual files and data, not operating systems or programs. So, for instance, it will save a Microsoft Word document but not restore the Microsoft Word application.

On the other hand, image-based backups save a "snapshot" version of your entire operating system, files, and programs when it was saved to your backup system. In this case, when you restore an image-based backup, you restore the entire computer system—applications, data, programming, etc.

File-based backups are great for saving data, but they take longer to restore than image-based backups.

For example, your laptop's memory is wiped, and you ask your IT expert to restore the computer using backups. However, before your technician can add the file-based backups, the laptop must be reprogrammed, and applications must be added. This process may take days or weeks.

If you have image-based backups, the technician only has to open that backup file, and your computer, programming, applications, and data will be restored.

3. Backup storage

When creating a backup system, you must choose where your backups are stored and how much space you need.

It's important to note that the smaller your RTO, the more backups you will need. More backups will require more memory space, which increases cost. The more storage space or locations you use, the higher the price.

In addition, you must select whether you will use local backups (a physical backup system within your office server room) or backups in the cloud. Some users choose to duplicate their backups across multiple locations. This way, if one backup system is damaged, you have duplicates saved elsewhere, guaranteeing the data is safe.

For instance, you have a local backup system in your office. One day, your office floods, and all of your IT equipment—including your backup system—is ruined. If your backups are duplicated to another location or the cloud, then your backups are safe and can be used to restore your systems.

You may also select which cloud region holds your data if you choose cloud storage. Typically, you select the region closest to your office, but what if you duplicate your backups across several cloud storage locations? With each cloud storage location added, the cost will go up.

For example, Microsoft has cloud storage facilities all over the globe. Additional service tiers allow for cloud storage. The higher the service tier, the more cloud storage regions you can use. However, the cost would be astronomical to duplicate your backups in every global cloud storage region.

4. Backup testing

Backup systems require regular testing to ensure the information is not corrupted. Someone must open and inspect the backup files to be sure they open and can be used in an emergency.

Backup programs release a report to notify users that backups were made, but these reports do not address whether or not the new backup is functional.

IT providers or internal IT teams must pay team members to monitor backup systems. Otherwise, you may not realize that your backups were corrupted until an IT disaster strikes. A corrupted backup cannot restore systems or data. It is useless.

Having a dedicated technician verify your backups' functionality is part of the cost of a quality backup service.

5. Available budget

Of course, your company budget helps dictate what kind of backups you can utilize and a reasonable RTO. You cannot create a backup system or RTO beyond your budget.

For example, a one-million-dollar company is building its backup plan. It decides it wants an RTO of thirty seconds. "If an IT disaster occurs, I don't want to be down more than 30 seconds. I want to be back online fast!"

While this is a noble goal, creating a backup system to accommodate an RTO like this would cost far more than this company can afford.

However, suppose that same company later says, "Can we build a backup system to have me back online within 8-12 hours?"

That is an RTO goal and backup system fitting for their budget.

6. Your expectations

Of course, part of creating your backup system will rely on your expectations as a company.

What mission-critical systems do you need to back up? How quickly do you want to be back online? Where and how will you store these backups? What do you expect from your backup system and IT provider or team? Answering these questions will help determine your service, your backup system's build, and your price.

 

Next steps for determining your backup services

Backup services are rarely a "one size fits all" package. Your business needs and budget will affect your required backup services. As you consider the price and goal of your backups, you should also talk to your IT provider or team about the following:

  1. Recovery time objectives
  2. Backup types
  3. Backup storage
  4. Backup testing
  5. Available budget
  6. Your expectations

Your IT provider or team can help you break down the different aspects of your backup services and which backups will help you meet your goals in an IT crisis.

We also recommend asking in-depth questions about your backup systems so that you and your IT provider or team clearly understand the plan and expectations.

Please be aware: it is an IT service red flag if your current IT provider or team has not discussed backup and recovery plans with you. If this is the case, we recommend prioritizing this conversation or, if that doesn't help, rethinking your current IT partnership.

WEBIT Services has been performing risk assessments, creating incident response plans, and enacting IT strategies for satisfied clients for over 25 years.

If you're looking for a new IT provider, book a free 30-minute assessment to see how WEBIT services can help.

If you're not ready to make a commitment but would like to learn more about IT strategies like disaster recovery, we recommend the following articles: