i worked at a startup in the late 90's and the price of sun microsystems gear was mind-blowingly high. from memory: ultra 5 workstation with a scsi card and disk array was $15,000+. an ultra e450 server was on the order of $100,000 and went up from there depending on how you wanted to build.
of course, that was exactly the time people started switching to linux on x86 en masse. pentium pro's were good and cheap enough to scale out less expensively on a per unit basis. today you can buy a 72-core xeon server with gigabytes of memory and terabytes of ssd's and 4x 10G ethernet for less than 10 grand. amortized over its functional lifetime, it costs less than a cell phone bill.
The big trick is to make everything redundant (redundant power, network bonding, Ceph instead of a NAS) and not have a SPOF. Then it matters a lot less if anything fails, and you can use cheaper hardware if you need to. That said, I still prefer server grade hardware - just not always the newest or the most brand name.
Frankly that's part of what makes working now such fun: the fact these systems just keep getting better and better.