Best, most cost effective way to backup google apps?
August 13, 2014 6:32 AM   Subscribe

We are a small nonprofit with about 10 concurrent Google Apps accounts. All I need to backup is email, not calendars or drive. I have good hardware. I do NOT have much budget. Please help, much more detail inside.

A recent disaster with an employee made us realize that we need to do a better job of archiving user email. A recent grant allowed us to purchase some nice network hardware (I'm our IT guy), but it did not allow for backup services. I've got a pretty hefty Synology sitting on the network, as well as a few relatively powerful desktops that backup to it. It's fine by me to run a service from either the synology or the desktop, and then just mirror it on the synology for redundancy. The fact that we use gmail (in browsers, NOT OUTLOOK) seems to be throwing a monkey wrench into this.

* I did the demo of mailstore and thought it was going to be $200. It's not, it's going to be almost $600 because of our number of users. I like everything about the software but it's price prohibitive. At least it's one-time, however if we grow we need more licenses.

* I talked to the folks at backupify about npo-pricing, and it's good, but it's ~$400/year for us.

* I think I can make the Synology Mail Station snag mail as well, but I can't find good info about how to use this as anything other than a mirror. I don't particularly want the synology in the middle of the transaction, like I don't want users using outlook or thunderbird to get their email off of the synology.

* I see GM Vault, and I'm about to play with it, not sure how easy it's going to be to keep the data mirrored on the synology in a useable way, AND it appears relatively difficult to review saved emails

* With anything Gmail, the issue is sync. MailStore wants me to forward all gmail to a third party account with special headers, and then let the mailstore break it into user folders from there, to assure that we get EVERY email. Right now, with 1-day syncs from any other service, a person could send/receive an email and delete it before the sync period and it would NOT be captured. Even backupify only does once a day at that price point.

* I have a spare machine I could run whatever server/OS on, although at this point I don't know what that would be.
posted by TomMelee to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why not just set up email clients with POP for free?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:41 AM on August 13, 2014

I forgot to add that I looked at Google Vault, and it's cheap, but it's got a minimum $1000/year contract, although you can spread it to 2 years.

Admiral Haddock, I do not want my users using thunderbird/outlook to access email. We're fully integrated with G-Apps for calendars and all that, and I've got an extremely non-savvy userbase, including people with intellectual disabilities. I need a central store of all emails.
posted by TomMelee at 6:47 AM on August 13, 2014

I was thinking more that you could set up email clients on your spare machines to just pull the emails off. That way the "archive" would not be accessible to the users, who would continue with whatever setup you have. You don't say how many users you're talking about, but it seems an easy enough kludge.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:59 AM on August 13, 2014

I've got about 10 steady users and 4-6 more now and then. I don't hate that idea, but we're looking at (currently) a little over 150,000 total emails that need stored now plus the future, I don't want to think about splitting those PST's.
posted by TomMelee at 7:01 AM on August 13, 2014

Google won't have PST files - that is Exchange. Google should be simple Unix mailbox files. 150,000 emails won't take 10% of the space the same mailstore would in Exchange.
posted by COD at 7:30 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The high school my child attends uses Google Apps for its email. I know they have all sorts of legal retention requirements. I also know they are cost adverse. I vaguely recall it mentioned at a public meeting that the cost per user was $25/yr and that included backup. The school gets FOIL requests and has discovery requests. It is not clear to me if you have talked with the Google App folks about a reasonably priced solution.

Also, for my own backup system and for ease of reading, I forward my multiple (6 or 8) GMail or Google App email accounts to one backup account. It gets every inbound email, although it does not get outbound.

To add to the Admiral's suggestion, you do not have to use the POP to an Outlook pst file. You can POP to another GMail account or to Thunderbird. I use Thunderbird for one account that has 196,000 emails in it. It is sometimes slow, but it works. If you POP all the accounts to their own GMail (or Apps) mirror account it should not be too wieldy.
posted by 724A at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I realize that COD but we were (I think) talking about downloading those emails with POP clients, thus PST's. You don't need exchange to generate PST's, just Outlook. It doesn't matter what size they are if I can't get them and keep them synced, and I've got terabytes of redundant backup available.

724A---they should look at backupify, it's cheaper than that, lol.

Part of my issue here is what counts as legal retention. There is a lawsuit involved over the actions of this former employee and potentially legal ramifications too. I also need to be able to maintain it. I feel like a bunch of new email addresses as dumps creates a time/maintenance burden as well as potentially interrupting the chain of custody, as any user with the pass could be selectively deleting emails.
posted by TomMelee at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2014

I know the CEO of Backupify - I'll send him a link to this thread. I didn't think they were that expensive.
posted by COD at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2014

COD: It's $3/user/month = $360, so his pricing is accurate.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2014

If the Google Apps cost is $25/user/year (I have not verified that) then it is cheaper than Backupify. $25< ($3x12)
posted by 724A at 7:50 AM on August 13, 2014

Thanks all. Backupify offered us a discount. The challenge with backupify is that you have to pay to maintain DORMANT accounts too. So even with the discount (which is definitely nice), I'm still in the ~$400 range because of dormant accounts of previous users. (like the employee in question.)(For clarity, you have to pay for dormant accounts w/ GVault too.)

Google vault, as I said, is cheap for education/npo (like $10/year/user), but has a minimum of $1k/year for the service. You're right though, I didn't maths well re: backupify vs google vault, I was thinking monthly vs yearly.
posted by TomMelee at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2014

This StackExchange thread might give you some ideas:

How to give admin access to all users' mail
posted by alex1965 at 8:02 AM on August 13, 2014

I'm not sure if this information will help you or not, but if you check into the audit API for Google Apps, it's possible to retrieve full mailboxes including deleted messages.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2014

Whoa trunk muffins THAT is juicy. It doesn't appear to work retroactively though, unless I'm misreading? Wait...maybe I'm misreading. Hmm. Thanks for this, now I have something to read.
posted by TomMelee at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2014

I work at Backupify, and I wanted to offer my help. Backupify provides you with a secure, second copy of the entire Google Apps suite -- Mail, Drive, Docs, Calendar, Contacts, and Sites. While you do pay for accounts you want backed up with Backupify, you can save money be deleting those dormant users from our Google Apps domain. Backups for those users will be stored and accessible in Backupify, with the ability to search, download, and restore to any other user on your domain. With Vault, you need to maintain the Google Apps license in addition to paying for Vault. You can find more info on the differences between Backupify and Vault here:

If budget is still a concern, I'd be happy to go over a few ways we can help you manage the cost. My email is juliette [at] backupify [dot] com. Thank you.
posted by juliettek at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2014

Thanks Julie, email incoming.
posted by TomMelee at 8:44 AM on August 13, 2014

I'm only seeing this question now so this suggestion is maybe too late.

Have a look at OfflineImap. It's an open source tool that will sync the emails on an imap server to an offline filestore (I forget which format but it's one of the *nix standards like maildir or mbox). GMail allows imap access. You can run it on a schedule and it will sync any changes since the last sync. If I remember correctly it also has quick sync and full sync modes so you can do the quick syncs during the day and full syncs during off hours.

I gather that you'd need to setup one profile for each of your users, and OfflineImap would need to be configured with each user's credentials. Unless Google Apps for Domains includes some kind of super admin user that can also access everyone's email accounts by imap.

After that it's just files so you can decide if it should go directly to the NAS or be mirrored in multiple places with rsync, etc.
posted by duoshao at 6:32 AM on August 20, 2014

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