The initial cost of a storage area network is substantial, and the worth may not be there for small-scale computer environments. While there are significant management and data security benefits to SAN, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, especially when cheaper software-based alternatives may be found. A SAN is only recommended when disaster recovery and centralized manageability needs are high.
A SAN does benefit many medium to large businesses. The key benefits are a centralized place to manage data and a full, reliable, accessible back-up site for networked computers. Smaller businesses generally have no need for such an elaborate solution as a SAN and can get by with server backups and a more decentralized management of networked computers. SANs save money over time, due to decreased power costs versus several data storage servers doing the same work, less maintenance and less business downtime. These factors generally are much more important when a business has large-scale computing needs. Generally it takes about 12 to 18 months to save the money spent on a SAN, though these numbers vary with the operating conditions of the business.
In general, if a business has only a small number of servers and workstations, a SAN may be an unnecessary and costly expense. Software solutions can provide all necessary functionality. For larger enterprises a SAN solution of some sort is highly recommended, however.