Weston is one of the main technology support directors for a church that is in the midst of trying to solve a server project. Currently, the church has their own in-house server setup for networked file sharing between all of the church staff. This system has been in place for several years, first being installed in 2006 for around $25,000 and then upgraded in 2010. Eventually, the church will be forced to upgrade the servers and so a better system that does not require constant upgrading is being sought out.

So how would you go about “fixing” this shared network storage?

Defining Terms

Before we get to your comments, we have a couple things to consider that are vital within the specs of this case study. We only use these to put everyone on the same level for this budgetary and tech venture.

Opportunity Costs
Opportunity costs is the idea that while you may be buying servers for $25,000, you are giving up the opportunity to use Google Drive and therefore you have cost yourself not being able to use those Google tools such as GMail, Google Drive for mobile devices, and other aspects that come with going the Google Drive route. These opportunity costs can be a quick oversight when we are talking storage but ignoring the many different features that come with individual services.

Sunk Costs
Within business school, there is a concept called sunk costs that can drive a person crazy. The idea is that when putting together a budget, people like to consider the fact that they already have products that should be factored in, but to do so may miss the point of a budget and eschew the best option results. In this case study, the old servers and way of doing shared networking is a sunk cost and should not be factored into the next round of networked storage.

Shared Network
Shared network storage is an in-house storage option that is available only on a specific network. Whether you connect through a VPN to the network where the servers are stored offsite from the church campus or the servers are stored in a room in the church, your church alone owns the servers and storage on them. Everyone that has the necessary permissions can read the documents, edit them, or delete them. This can look like a high performance network rackmounted server or a significantly cheaper desktop box that has several internal hard drives for high storage.

Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is a model of networked enterprise storage where data is stored not only in the user’s computer, but in virtualized pools of storage which are generally hosted by third parties, too. Hosting companies operate large data centers, and people who require their data to be hosted buy or lease storage capacity from them. [Wikipedia]

Viable Options

Now that we are all considering the same things, we want to offer a couple of viable options and then hear from you with what you would do.

Google Drive
Currently, every staff member has a Google Apps account, but many have not fully made the switch yet completely into a Google account. As you may know, each user gets 30GB of storage for free with the possibility of more storages if a cost. One solution that the church is exploring is for a single user to purchase 1TB of storage for 1 account and upload all data files to that account and set visibility permissions for users. Currently Google Drive’s storage license subscription structure is 20GB of storage is $4/month, 200GB is $17.50/month, and 1 TB is $89/month. It comes with the benefit of having free desktop, web, and mobile tools. This subscription would allow this single user to upload as much information as needed and let others view the content, though all changes to the online storage would need to be done through this single user account which can be a nightmare to manage all church staff are given access to it instead of one sole owner of the account. To go this route would assume that the IT person is putting 75% of their time into Google Drive maintenance and so this is not a viable option.

This is essentially modeling the same process that the church is currently running, but possibly from a cheaper model. The servers can remain in-house, you only have to incur a single cost that will be cheaper in the long run but more upfront. It has everything that every web-based cloud storage company offers with one simple install on your web server. While the software is free, it does require someone to setup the server so you will need to buy your own hardware. We recommend for 9+ people regularly connecting to this server, web servers, or video storage, a Buffalo TeraStation III Rackmount Network Storage ($1,100) that can hold up to 4 TBs. The hard drives that come separately can vary in price from $60 each to $350 depending upon size and SSD or HDD.

Google Cloud Storage
Amazon has something comparable with their Amazon S3 Cloud Storage, but with Google accounts already setup and Google being cheaper, this is a better solution. This solution is specifically geared less to a shared networking storage solution where all users have access to edit the files on the fly, unlike the Google Drive option that requires a single account to upload to their drive. This pricing plan is $.085/GB of storage, free uploading and $.12/GB download bandwidth. So 1 TB of storage and 3 TB of downloading would cost $455.68/month.

What would you do in this situation?