With all the news of Google’s continual purging of self determined ‘dead weight’ services such as Google Reader this week, I was brought back to thinking of a blog post I read late last year on the Web we’ve lost. Along came the natural response of the Web we gained, but the underlying tone was the same; the cost of innovation is a “natural selection” of sorts which sends what was once popular and cutting edge the way of the dodo.
Let’s look at the SaaS market. It’s starting to reach that sophomore phase where the solutions are becoming more mature and dependable, and people are flocking in droves to “the cloud” to get away from the headaches of dealing with self-hosted and self-managed solutions. While simplifying the road to implementing technology in an organization is a definite plus, it comes at a cost; you are putting control in someone else’s hands. Here’s the list of questions that immediately come to mind when I help determine if it’s best to leverage a SaaS service or not…
- Where is this “cloud” at? Yes this question does seem a bit odd, but this is probably one of the most overlooked concerns. Is down the street from me, a few hundred miles away, or on an entire other continent? This can make huge impacts on performance and reliability.
- Who has access to the SaaS application and data? What data encryption and protection policies are in place? Does the facility and application comply with some of the better privacy and security measures? Can I apply my policies cleanly to it? And it’s not just a matter of avoiding the “Mom and Pop” cloud providers; even the big guys have had their struggles.
- Am I OK with loosing control of my upgrade cycle? SaaS based applications generally have a pretty fluid upgrade cycle, which is great for consumers wanting the “latest and greatest”, but a 5,000 person organization needing to retrain their entire team every 30 days can mean lots of lost productivity.
- Can I get my data out of “the cloud”? What if SaaS doesn’t work out that great for your team; can you easily move out and not loose the data you’ve built up?
Let’s bring Google Reader here into full focus and run it thru this gauntlet. We know Google is good about keeping your data realitively close to you, having data centers in most regions of the world. They have recently added two-pass authentication, making your data even more secure. While there has been one major upgrade to Google Reader in the years I’ve been using it, by and large it’s a pretty constant experience. And via Google Takeout, you can get all your data out whenever you like. Seems like a winner.
But there’s one question that hasn’t been addressed which is…
- Will I be OK if the service goes away entirely? Or, am I so wed to the SaaS application that if I lose it, I lose my business.
This concept is really now starting to hit the forefront, especially with apps that have built upon Google Reader. You have no choice on the matter; the app you know and love will be gone. And it won’t be the last one either.
You at the business level need to make sure you are comfortable with the tradeoffs that come with this territory. SaaS is changing the landscape of technology in new and exciting ways, but just like the “paperless office” it’s not the full answer either.