Google Workspace (G Suite) provides limited built-in data protection against deletions, overwrites and ransomware. Gartner1, IDC2 and Forrester3 recommend using 3rd party Google Workspace backups to protect data.
This overview is based on our internal competitive research (Afi develops a Google Workspace backup service), and we hope that it can be helpful in comparing backup options for Google Workspace email, Drives and other G Suite apps. It includes two parts:
- First we compare backup solutions' usage, and their user rankings,
- Second, we discuss backup products' features a bit more in detail.
If you want to learn about the built-in Google Workspace data protection features, check this blog post that discusses Google Workspace native vs 3rd-party backup options. Please feel free to check this Google Cloud Architecture documentation about Afi Google Workspace Backup, if you'd like to get a short overview of Afi backup features.
20+ Vendors Offer Google Workspace Backup
There are a lot of Google Workspace backup options. Over 20 companies claim to provide G Suite (Google Workspace) backup.
The chart below includes the most notable G Suite backup providers, grouped into 4 + 1 categories and we'll briefly discuss each category below.
Less than half Of the 20+ Google Workspace backup tools focus on Google Workspace as their primary workload
- Cloud-based backup services
The solutions provide fully-managed cloud-to-cloud Google Workspace 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.
- Google recovery tools
There are two Google tools that help backup user data: Google Vault (archiving & e-discovery add-on) and Google Takeout (free built-in tool that allows manual offline data export). Both tools help preserve Google Workspace data and export it offline, but have no recovery capabilities to restore data back to Google Workspace. See our earlier blog posts for advantages and limitations of these options.
- Traditional (broad) backup platforms
These software solutions support Google Workspace as a workload, in addition to the traditional data sources such as VMware, Hyper-V or Windows. Most of their sales come from non-Google backup products, and most traditional vendors have limited support of Google Workspace (e.g. not restoring Drive document IDs, no OU structure or sharing permissions recovery).
- 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 mostly focused on server backup. 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 followed Synology and released QNAP Boxafe G Suite Backup in 2019.
- Specialized 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 and host the software and storage. The price of the software is lower than the price of the cloud backup solutions, but the options become hard to manage if you have more than 100 users.
Why Most Vendors Don't Invest in G Suite Backup
Only vendors from categories #1 and #2 above – Google-focused providers that derive a significant share of their sales from Google Workspace backup – have economic incentives to develop granular support of Google Workspace data types (beyond the most basic email & files backup features).
The largest (category #3) vendors, on the other hand, develop broad backup platforms and generally treat Google Workspace backup as table stakes, only implementing the minimal set of features to be able to claim the workload as supported.
The chart below illustrates that Google Workspace accounts for only 0.6% share of the overall market, meaning that major backup providers either ignore Google Workspace, or allocate only limited resources to support it.
Google Workspace accounts for approx. 1% of backup market
For example one of the largest backup software companies, Veritas, recently discontinued its Google Workspace backup; Veeam, Veritas and other major enterprise backup vendors also don't offer Google Workspace backup. Commvault, Rubrik and Cohesity provide only basic features or no Google Workspace backup at all.
The best G Workspace backup solutions are instead developed by specialized backup companies that focus on SaaS backup workloads, and most of them offer cloud-to-cloud backup options instead of on-premises backup software (which is traditionally developed for VM and Server backup).
Best Google Workspace Backup Solutions
Some of the most relevant information in comparing Google Workspace backup options is the actual product usage and customer feedback. Luckily, Google Marketplace provides just that information in a way that is both useful and accessible:
- The number of active users is reported on Google Workspace Marketplace for each backup solution (like any other app). We've used these numbers to analyze the competition for a long time. We've also compared the publicly reported usage number to the actual number of protected/licensed Afi users, and we believe that the reported user base is a very good approximation of the actual number of Google Workspace seats for each backup service – for most vendors (see our note regarding SysCloud)
- User reviews are posted on each backup vendor's marketplace page, and in our experience they generally provide a fair user feedback on the products. It is hard for a vendor to make customers write artificial favourable reviews – even when users get their backup subscriptions with large discount, they normally write what they really think, not just the good things. And it's even harder to remove a negative review once it's posted.
We used the marketplace user feedback and the number of active users stats to create the chart below. Using the two vendor performance indicators it groups Google Backup providers into four categories, based on the user base size and customer feedback.
Notable backup solutions are:
- Afi.ai (our product) has the highest number of active users of all the solutions rated above 2.5, the minimal rating we consider adequate. We believe the position reflects our strong focus on the Google Workspace workload;
- Spin is a security vendor focused on cloud workloads. It has very good user ratings and good performance (see section #5). It's pivot into SaaS security left it with less resources to invest in Google Workspace backup, and we don't often see them in enterprise backup deals;
- SysCloud is another solution with high market share (the marketplace metric may slightly overstate their active usage, as the company is focused the Educational segment where a significant share of Google Workspace users are inactive);
- Backupify and Spanning have the most users, but have very low user ratings. The two cloud backup companies were acquired by Private Equity firms, merged, and divested multiple times (they currently belong to the same owner, Kaseya). The low user ratings reflect problems related to backup reliability and feature set that customers report over the last 2-3 years (at least in part these problems result from the M&A activity).
Why should you rely on this analysis?
If you want to select the best Google Workspace backup, be sure to check Google Workspace Marketplace reviews yourself, and try at least a couple of backup solutions.
The next section describes our approach to testing backup solutions for Google Workspace, and provides a summary of backup products key benchmarks and features.
Benchmarking & Test Environment
In this section we briefly describe the test environment and what metrics we recommend our customers and partners to look at when assessing Google Workspace back up options.
Afi Backup Service is used by many customers with over 100,000 users and petabytes of data (our largest customer has over 3 petabytes of data). At the same time, we believe that you don't need an extremely large environment to properly test a backup tool and reveal critical drawbacks.
For internal tests we use a Google Workspace domain with approx. 90 users and 20 Shared Drives. The test domain has approx. 2 TB in total storage across all users and includes a representative set of files and emails: large 10GB+ media files, large number of small text files (source code) as well as native Google Workspace items such as Google Docs, Sheets (spreadsheets) and Slides (presentations).
A Google Workspace domain with ~90 users is (in most cases) enough to assess the scalability & features of a backup service
We normally assess backup metrics over a 2-week time period during which backup solutions run scheduled automated backups with the maximum frequency supported by each service. We also restore Google Workspace user email backups and Drive files to the same test domain to measure the speed and accuracy of recovery.
Finally, we look at four key metrics for each solution:
- Backup success rate (% ratio). It takes into account all Google Drive and Google Workspace Gmail backup runs during the 2 test weeks. It's 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 (first) backup. During the first backup all protected data has to be pulled from Google Workspace, which takes much longer compared to subsequent "incremental" backups when only the new (or changed) items are synced.
- Restore speed (MB/sec). Measured as the average restore speed for one user backup with 4 GB of data in Gmail and 15 GB in Google Drive.
- Feature set (qualitative description). Bullet points highlighting strengths and weaknesses reflecting the accuracy of restore, backup reliability and management features.
Benchmarking Results (Selected Vendors)
Below are the test results for selected Google Workspace backup options. We only include in this analysis solutions that:
- have high user ratings and growing usage, based on the Google Workspace Marketplace analysis in section 3;
- large vendors with substantial market presence (also based on section 3).
In addition to the cloud-based solutions we also include Cubebackup and Synology in this analysis. These providers don't have Google Workspace Marketplace applications (thus missing fro the analysis in section 3), because they use a less secure token-based API authentication option (unlike most cloud vendors that leverage modern . Despite this less secure authentication option, we feel the two solutions are good options for customers with small or medium environments who are willing to spend some manual efforts on maintaining the on-premise/DIY cloud software.
Afi, SysCloud and Synology demonstrated the top performance
Top Solutions: Afi, SysCloud, Synology
We believe that Afi, SysCloud and Synology are the best Google Workspace backup options, combining mature feature set with stable performance and reliability. Afi and SysCloud are fully-managed cloud options with built-in multi-tenancy, reporting API and SSO integrations.
Synology, on the other hand, is a local device-based backup solution; it offers a mature product but its on-premise deployment model limits Synology cloud integration and security capabilities.
We don't have full test results for SpinBackup (Spin.AI), but based on the feedback from our service provider partners their performance places them on the 2nd place. While we don't see them in the deals very often, they have some good customer feedback and we may add them to the full comparison later.
In short, SpinBackup backs up all the main Google Workspace data sources, has a reporting and management API, OpenID connect and other integrations, detailed audit log, multi-geo storage (a domain's backups can be stored in multiple datacenters) admin roles and self-service recovery. The solution doesn't have Bring Your Own Key (BOYK) capability, has no online email preview and no full-text search.
No Results for Backupify, Spanning
Backupfy and Spanning are the oldest and largest Google Workspace backup providers. Together they account for around 15 million of backed up users, or over 40% of the total Google Workspace backup market.
The two solutions offer mature feature sets, including audit log, roles & access management, reporting and API capabilities. Historically they were the most mature and scalable Google Workspace backup options. However, over the last years they went through a series of mergers and acquisitions (both products are now owned by the same company), which affected their product development and stability.
We believe that the low Google Workspace Marketplace ratings, reviews on Reddit and other IT platforms reflect their problems. We no longer think that we can reliably assess their performance and their figures are excluded from the analysis (the original version of this blog post included them.
Excluded from the benchmarking are solutions with little usage and few user ratings, including Druva, Avepoint and DropSuite and others. These providers have good Microsoft 365 backup solutions and we often compete against them for M365 backup customers. However, their presence in the Google Workspace segment is limited (and they spend fewer resources on supporting Google Workspace).
Another group of vendors missing from this blog post entierly (not just the benchmarking part) are on-premise backup tools that cater to personal and micro-businesses (<10 employees). These tools are cheap, but are missing key backup management, security and restore features. Examples of such tools include Shoviv Backup, Systools and Sysinfo.
SysCloud is an independent Google Workspace backup & DLP developer focused on Education with a mature feature set.
- PST Gmail export (which most vendors don't have)
- A lot more complete reporting vs other tools, including key events, number of items backed up, backup storage size
- Recovery progress bar (useful for large recoveries lasting 10+ hours)
- No BYOK encryption capabilities, no Okta SAML integration
- Google Workspace user renaming is unsupported; renamed users are treated as new users, requiring new licenses and full backup.
- Gmail restore operations overwrite the original data (no option to restore to a separate Gmail label)
SysCloud is the 3rd largest backup solution on the market, and it's backup success rate is above average. 4,081 of 4,207 backup runs were successful resulting in healthy 97% backup success rate.
The vendor 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 Google Workspace Education.
SysCloud has a mature backup feature set comparable to Spanning & Backupify. It features backup admin roles and permissions, automated 3x per day backups as well as a detailed audit log.
SysCloud backs up shared drive data that a user has access to (sharing permissions, however, cannot be recovered). It also provides basic backup storage management features, allowing admins to disable or enable backup of large files (audio, video, images) for all or some users. This feature, along with storage reporting, helps backup users control their backup storage (SysCloud offers "unlimited" backup pricing, but your storage footprint impacts your renewal price, as with most unlimited cloud backup options).
Its most significant limitation is the limited number of backup versions (100). This limitation can inhibit customers' ability to recover from cloud ransomware attacks targeting Google Workspace (certain kinds of malware may rewrite data multiple times in order to put the last undamaged version of data beyond restore).
Other important limitations include no Bring-Your-Own-Key (BYOK) support and not SAML Okta integration (having a secondary SSO sign in provider is useful if you lose access to your Google Workspace domain and need to log in to your backup application).
Great backup option, with advantages (cost, data control) and limitations (security, scalability) inherent in the appliance model
- ~60% licensing cost savings vs cloud options (assuming IT admin time is cheap)
- High-frequency continious backups - 5x or more backup runs per day
- Synology can restore Drive file sharing permissions
- Synology self-Service portal enables non-admin Google Workspace to export and recover their backup data
- Scalability issues for large deployments (the most advanced device, RS3621xs+, supports up to 800 users)
- Advanced security features are not available (BYOK, Granular Access Groups, SIEM integrations, IP blacklisting, etc)
Synology Active Backup for Google Workspace software is preinstalled on Synology storage appliances and is for free once you purchase a Synology NAS.
Your local Synology device will use an admin service account to access your Google Workplace domain and perform automated backups, and you'll need to maintain your local set up - making sure backups don't overload your network, keeping track of the available backup storage space, replicating backups to a secondary redundant storage.
Maintenance and IT Admin time
Based on our experience, the amount of IT admin effort required to manage a Synology-based backup is less than the time required to maintain Cubebackup or other on-premise software, which generally requires more time to update, patch, manage hosting and network configs.
At the same time, Synology solution requires more attention that most cloud-based Google Workspace backups that provide automatic handling of Google API errors, air-gapped cloud storage (e.g. Afi backup storage is immutable and redundant).
Strengths and Weaknesses
We believe that Synology invests a great deal in their Google Workspace backup product, offering a mature feature set and stable performance.
Synology backs up shared files and sharing permissions (many cloud-based solutions don't) and generally offers a fairly advanced feature set, including
- NAS-hosted user self-service portal with Google LDAP-based access
- Granular data retention settings based on the number of versions & date
- Email data web-based preview and instant export, much faster than the limited preview and export options provided by other solutions
Synology's best selling points come from its local appliance-based deployment model. It helps organizations avoid regular licensing fees (no maintenance fees after you purchased your NAS) and have greater control over their data that is stored locally in any geography the organization choses to place their NAS device.
The device-based model has important limitations that cannot be overcome. Specifically, Synology stores backup encryption keys on the same NAS device that stores backups, and doesn't support external Key Management Services (KMS's) because that'd make the system unreliable (minor network problems could lead to unavailable backups).
Other notable features that aren't available in a device-based solution include global IP black listing, tenant-based encryption (all backed up domains are encrypted by the same key is one device is used to backup multiple organizations), external SSO and 2FA solutions.
Many backup vendors don't have the narrow product development focus and commitment that are necessary to provide a reliable and complete Google Workspace backup - primarily because the market segment is relatively small and unimportant for most backup vendors. In this blog post we reviewed the few vendors that invest in their Google Workspace backup solutions, and which we consider our main competitors.
If you want to find the best Google Workspace backup solution for you, don't just rely on online reviews or a vendor demo. Select 2-3 solutions and try them out, you don't need multiple domains to do so - they can be installed on the same Google Workspace domain simultaneously and they'll work in parallel.
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