Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) provides limited built-in data protection against deletions, overwrites and ransomware. Organizations, therefore, often use third-party tools as part of their G Suite backup policy.
This review helps compare & select solutions to backup G Suite Gmail, Drive, Shared (Team) Drives and other G Suite apps. Go straight to ranking of G Suite backup solutions, or read the next part to learn about the comparison criteria and how the test was performed.
If you want to learn more about native Google Workspace (G Suite) data protection capabilities, check this post about Google Workspace email backup native and 3rd-party options.
Each G Suite (Google Workspace) backup tool included in the review was installed on the test domain with 80 users and 20 Shared (Team) Drives. The domain has 2 TB in total storage across all users & Drives and includes what we consider a representative set of files and emails: large 10GB+ media files, large number of small text files (source code) as well as native G Suite files such as documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
The tools were running automated backups of the entire domain for 2 weeks and we measured the number of total backup jobs, how many of them failed and how many succeeded. Finally, the Google Drive and G Suite user email backups were restored (within the same domain) using each tool.
The following performance metrics were measured during the test:
- Backup success rate (% ratio). It takes into account all Google Drive and G Suite Gmail backup runs during the 2 test weeks. It is calculated as the number of successful backup runs divided by the total backup runs.
- Initial backup speed (MB/sec). The average speed of the initial backup. During the first backup all protected data has to be pulled from the Google Workspace account, which takes considerably more time to finish compared to the second and subsequent "incremental" backups which only sync the data that has changed since the last backup.
- Restore speed (MB/sec). Measured as the average restore speed for one G Suite user backup with 4 GB of data in Gmail and 15 GB in Google Drive.
- Feature set (score from 1 to 10). Each solution was assigned a (somewhat subjective) grade reflecting the adequacy of backup, restore, management and reporting features.
In addition to the performance metrics, the tools were evaluated based on the vendor background, company size and history. This information is based on public sources as well as interviews with Afi partners & customers. See the vendor details & company profiles at the end of this post for additional information.
Afi itself develops a cloud G Suite backup, and this summary is based on the internal competitive study and benchmarking performed on our behalf by Delta Labs, a European technology outsourcing & consulting firm.
Below are the results of the review. The "overall rank" is the summary score that reflects backup & recovery speed, success rate and the completeness of the feature set. The overall rank is calculated as the average of 4 individual ranks (one for each of the 4 measured metrics). 1 is the best (top) result and 6 is the worst.
Backupify is #1 thanks to fast speed, but dragged by 86% success rate. Spanning is #2 (slower, but better reliability)
Backupify achieved #1 rank thanks to the mature feature set and fast performance. But its backup success rate and overall reliability was noticeably lower than most other solutions. It features a detailed audit log, admin roles, a reporting module and 3x per day automated GSuite back up.
Backupify's main drawback, in addition to the low success rate, is the "silent" Google Drive and Shared Drive backup errors. The service in some cases skips Drive files during backup runs, and yet it reports such incomplete backups as successful as long as at least one file in the backup run is backed up. See the Backupify section below for a more detailed description of the issue.
Spanning backup for GSuite ranked #2. It demonstrated good backup success rate and its feature set is mature and comparable with Backupify. However, Spanning backup and restore speed was 2x+ slower than Backupify and inferior to most other solutions.
Important Spanning limitations include the automated backup frequency limited to 1x per day and only a single backup storage region (USA) which can be unacceptable for GDPR-compliant organizations.
How afi.ai is different from other backups?
Afi intelligently retries and reschedules backups to prevent backup failures
Based on new architecture, Afi is 2-3x faster than most G Suite backup solutions
Protection based on AI detection engine and preemptive snapshots
Full Text Search
Afi is the only cloud G Suite backup with full text Gmail search for email contents.
10+ other unique features
- Fresh UI with instant preview and instant direct download
- Most granular roles (super admin's rights can be limited)
- Free retention for archived (deleted) G Suite users
Minimal Requirements. All tools included in the review achieved 80%+ backup success rate and all of them have basic backup features, such as G Suite Gmail backup, Google Drive and Shared Drives backup, point-in-time restore and offline export. All of the vendors also provide email/phone-based support and online product documentation.
Pricing & Licensing. All the solutions have similar licensing based on the number of protected users, and all have volume discounts and non-profit pricing. List prices (before discounts) are approx. $36 per user annually for most solutions. Please check our earlier blog posts if you'd like to get more details about G Suite backup pricing and discounting policies.
G Suite Backup Types
In this blog post we focus cloud-based backup services. This section provides a (very) short overview of other types of solutions in order to present a more complete picture.
There are 20+ G Suite backup tools on the market, including 7 cloud-based solutions which are the focus of this review
1. Cloud-based backup services
It is the largest type of G Suite backups and the focus of this post. The tools provide fully managed cloud backup service that includes vendor-hosted backup management application and air-gapped cloud storage. Because the applications are hosted in the cloud, backup operations have no impact on the local network and have no requirements for local storage capacity/network bandwidth.
2. Google recovery tools
The Google tools that help backup G Suite user data are Google Vault (archiving & e-discovery add-on) and Google Takeout (free built-in tool that allows manual offline data export). Both tools help retain G Suite data and export it offline, but have no recovery capabilities to restore data back to G Suite. See our earlier blog posts for advantages and limitations of these tools.
3. Traditional backup software
These broad software solutions support G Suite as a workload, in addition to the traditional data sources such as VMware, Hyper-V or Windows. Because the G Suite data backup is a relatively small niche compared to other data sources, these vendors mostly provide only partial support of G Suite (e.g. no OU structure, sharing permissions or G Suite Gmail labels backup).
4. Hardware Appliances
NAS/SAN storage devices that can take regular backups of Google Apps and store them locally. Similarly to traditional software vendors these are focused on server backup and provide limited support for G Suite. Synology Active Backup for G Suite was released in 2017 and it is essentially an on-premise backup server software preinstalled on Synology NAS devices. QNAP is another NAS vendor that provides a preinstalled G Suite back up solution - it followed Synology and released QNAP Boxafe G Suite Backup in 2019.
5. Local backups for G Suite
These tools are focused on G Suite and other SaaS apps protection, but don't provide a fully managed cloud service. Customers need to install, maintain, host and manage the backup software and storage. Although the price of the software is lower than the price of the cloud-based backup solutions, the total cost of ownership for such solutions may exceed that of fully managed cloud services. See section 7 for the TCO estimates for a DIY backup solution based on Cubebackup software.
Fast performance & mature feature made Backupify #1 in the review, but its backup success rate & overall reliability are low
8 of 10
- Fast backup & restore operations (but slower than Afi)
- Multitenancy (ability to manage multiple domains from a single Backupify account)
- Unreported fails: when Backupify is unable to backup & skips files from backup, it still reports it as successful.
- Reliability issues (low overall backup success rate, errors during initial setup, restore and export).
- No Gmail/Contacts online preview (makes restore & version browsing difficult).
Backupify achieved #1 in the review thanks to its fast performance. Backupify is faster than with any other vendor (but Afi). It also has all the key G Suite backup features including the audit log, admin roles, mbox export for Gmail and email alerts for admins.
On the flip side, Backupify proved to be less reliable than other solutions. The overall backup success rate was 86%, significantly less than the market benchmark of 95-97%. During the test period Backupify executed backup runs 3 times a day and 2,890 of the total 3,361 backup runs were successful.
All the successful backups that were examined (50) proved to be recoverable. 3 recovery attempts yielded a 500 error screen, but eventually the restore operations succeeded on the 2nd attempt.
The most significant Backupify issue is related to Google Drive Backup. In some cases the service is unable to complete the backup of all Drive files and it skips them. At the same time, admin is not notified about such incomplete backups. In the reporting module Backupify presents such backups as successful. Even if admin manually goes through the reporting tables and discovers the unreported (partially) failed backups, then there is no way to see the list of the files skipped from in the backups.
Backupify has configurable email admin reports with a summary of daily/weekly G Suite backup events. However there are no instant alerts and when backup or restore operations fail, no notifications are sent to the domain administrator. Backupify dashboard shows the number of protected and total users in the domain as well as the storage consumption and recent events, but no status of the backup runs. In order to track the number of failed or successful backup runs administrator must head to the reporting section and generate a report manually.
There is no Gmail preview for emails in Backupify. If you need to restore data, you will have to export the mailbox contents offline and browse through them using MS Outlook, or another email client, in order to find the lost messages.
The offline export works fast, but requires multiple steps to complete. Instead of the instant download option, you need to start the export by clicking the Export button, then go to the export section and wait for the export link to appear. Once the link appears there, the admin can use it to start the download.
Backupify provides configurable admin roles that can be configured to allow IT administrators to backup G Suite user data, execute data recovery and data export. The system has no end-user self-service recovery portal and no configurable roles for the end-users.
Backupify was launched in 2008 - earlier than any of its competitors, and before the notion of cloud-to-cloud backup became apparent. At the time, it was the only cloud G Suite Gmail backup tool, providing backup for organizations as well as consumer Gmail backup for individuals.
In 2014 Backupify was acquired by Datto Corporation, which tried to integrate the solution into its broader disaster recovery and data protection solution. Datto's main focus is hardware appliances with replication, backup and NAS capabilities. As part of Datto, Backupify backup for G Suite was de-prioritized and started to experience quality and customer service issues. Reddit and other community resources have a lot of negative user feedback concerning reliability and service issues in 2017-2019.
Datto Backupify dropping the ball - Reddit r/Data/Hoarder
All i can say is that i hate [Backupify] like a fat kid hates exercise.
Let's forget about the random failures for no particular reason.
Let's forget about the UI that makes you want to open a vein and wait for sweet relief.
Do [Backupify] know the meaning of the words "reporting" or "notification"?
Despite the negative feedback, the company continues to work on the product, improving it and adding new features. In 2019 Backupify released 32 updates mostly focused on product stability, almost 3x more than in 2018 (11 updates) and 2017 (10 updates).
Spanning G Suite Backup
Solid success rate & reliability are Spanning's strong points; yet it's slower than most tools & missing important capabilities.
7 of 10
- Second oldest & largest vendor on the market
- Above average backup success rate (2% of fails)
- Long restore operations (10+ days observed during the test), no detailed restore % progress reporting
- Backup frequency limited to 1x per day
- No choice of storage location (only 1, in US)
- Incomplete G Suite support (no Hangouts/Chats backup, Gmail labels structure)
With 98% backup success rate (1,662 successful backup runs of total 1,695 during the test period) Spanning is in line with the industry benchmarks and significantly better than Backupify. However, the initial backup speed was 3.5 MB/s which is 2x+ slower than Backupify and below most other solutions.
Spanning provides advanced backup & management features and its feature set is on par with Backupify. It includes detailed audit log (admin sign-in operations, data browsing and impersonation operations are captured, offline export is available), online email preview, configurable administrative roles and user self-service. Spanning also supports organizational units for protection management and allows offline email export in mbox format.
There are important limitations in Spanning product (see the company background to understand their difficult history) that we feel important to highlight:
- Backup frequency is limited to 1x per day automated backup, while 3x is the de-facto market standard
- No storage location options are available in their G Suite backup service; the default storage is in the US and it cannot be changed (at the same time, they enable the storage selection option in their Office 365 backup service)
- Nested Gmail label structures are not preserved upon restore, which is an important limitation for large mailboxes with complex label structures
- Spanning does not support backup of some G Suite apps, including Google Hangouts/Chats.
Spanning backup runs and the number of successful (failed) backups can be viewed in the audit log table. The application dashboard only provides a high-level view (if there were any fails or not, without the number of backup runs). If the account has more than 100 users, admin has to navigate through multiple pages to browse the status of protection by user. There is no option to sort, filter or search the user accounts and it may take a while if the admin needs to check the status for a particular user account.
Spanning is the only major G Suite backup solution that does not offer monthly payment options. While this is not a product feature, it may be a significant limitation for IT resellers and SMB customers.
Spanning released their first version of Google Apps backup in 2012, when it became the main competitor of Backupify. In 2014 Spanning was acquired by EMC, only to be spun off in 2017 as a separate company. In 2018 it was acquired again by Kaseya (remote management and monitoring provider). During this time Spanning has suffered through a period of senior management turnover and de-focus.
Spanning product updates in 2019 were focused on the integration with Kaseya and improvements to O365 backup, there have been no significant improvements to the G Suite service.
SysCloud is an independent G Suite backup & DLP developer focused on Education; it has mature feature set but is slow.
6 of 10
- PST Gmail export (available only in Afi & SysCloud)
- More complete reporting vs other tools - incl. key events, number of items backed up, backup size
- G Suite user renaming is unsupported (treated as new users - require new license and full backup)
- Gmail restore operations overwrite the original data (no option to restore to a separate Gmail label)
- False DLP alerts (200+ during the 2 test weeks)
Syscloud is #5 in the benchmarking. Its backup success rate was slightly above average, while the backup & restore performance is slower than all other competitors. 4,081 of 4,207 backup runs were successful resulting in healthy 97% backup success rate. The initial backup speed was 3.4MB/s, and restore speed was 1.3MB/s which make Syscloud the slowest solution in our review.
Syscloud has a mature backup feature set comparable to Spanning & Backupify. It features admin roles & permissions, automated 3x a day backups and detailed audit log. However there are a few significant limitations specific to Syscloud.
The limit for the number of backed up versions (100) is the most serious drawback of the service. This limitation that can inhibit the ability to restore from cloud ransomware targeting at G Suite. Certain kinds of malware rewrite data multiple times in order to put the last undamaged version of the data beyond restore.
Syscloud does not support Google Chats/Hangouts backup and has no backup operator admin role (restore/backup rights without the ability to view backup contents). Because of the slow performance, the absence of backup/restore progress visibility in Syscloud is very noticeable.
The company was founded in 2011 and raised $3M in equity and debt investments in 2014-2018.
Syscloud is focused on Education sector and in addition to the backup features it provides DLP and monitoring features. It competes with specialized software monitoring solutions such as Gaggle and Bark, offering content analysis, review and rapid response services for G Suite Education.
Syscloud recent releases are focused on the safety monitoring and data leak prevention features, with no noticeable improvements to G Suite backup (their feature set and speed remain unchanged from the last year (2019) review).
Upsafe & MSP360
Upsafe has limited feature set and below-average speed; the service is based on white-labelled version of Cloudberry
5 of 10
- Granular Gmail search (by email subject, attachment size, recipients & dates
- No Google Organizational Units support
- No offline export/download options (only restore within G Suite)
- Limited audit log (only backup and restore operations)
- Backup frequency limited to 2x per day automated backups
Upsafe is a small cloud service provider that does not develop its own software. It relies on the platform developed by MSP360 (formerly CloudBerry). It uses the whitelabelled version of CloudBerry Google Apps backup deployed on AWS.
Upsafe was #6 in the review and showed a good backup success rate of 96%. Its backup and restore speed is slower than most of the solutions in the test.
Upsafe has a feature set that would be deemed incomplete by most organizations. It does not support organizational units and all protection settings need to be applied using a plain list of users & Shared Drives. The audit log is limited to backup & restore operations. Data browsing and sign in information is not logged. The software performs 2x per day backups for all protected users with no option to configure a 3x per day backup.
Upsafe has been operational since 2015, and we could find little information about its size and operations. We estimate that Upsafe has around 50 G Suite business customers, making it one of the smallest cloud vendors in this review.
Cloudberry G Suite Backup Software
Cloudberry (MSP360) Backup for G Suite is the technology solution behind Upsafe. It is not part of this review because it doesn't provide a cloud backup service. Instead of offering a cloud backup service directly to the end-customers Cloudberry licenses the software which is used by cloud service providers (like Upsafe) to deliver backup to the end-customers.
Service providers deploying CloudBerry need to:
- buy and configure their own cloud storage and VM hosting
- install CloudBerry application in the VM
- connect it to the cloud storage
- grant G Suite permissions to the Cloudberry instance
Based on the product benchmarking, Backupify showed the fastest performance while Spanning achieved the highest backup success rate (not counting Afi G Suite Backup). Both solutions have mature feature set, but they also have limitations that can have impact your G Suite disaster recovery strategy.
Other solutions in the review which scored below Backupify and Spanning provide less complete feature sets and/or slower performance.
Finally, if you liked this review and want to run a similar comparison yourself, you don't need to have multiple G Suite domains. All solutions can be installed on the same G Suite domain simultaneously, and they should work in parallel with no visible performance impact.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to sing up for a free trial and see for yourself how much easier and faster Afi G Suite Backup is compared to all other solutions. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about Afi G Suite backup features in this short summary.
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