After you go through all the effort of assessing the reliability of a SaaS (software as a service) provider, do you need to implement your own data backups too? This is a question that I’ve pondered about more than once. Isn’t one of the principle value propositions of SaaS the fact that all the worries about administrative task like backups have been outsourced?
The brutal reality is that IT organizations are still on the hook to provide mission critical data to the business, whether the SaaS provider has failed to deliver, or whatever the reason. The challenge is identifying what is mission critical data, and then, what level of risk it is exposed to, and finally, how quickly will the business need access to it when there’s an issue.
What is mission critical data? Practically speaking, some critical attributes are: system of record and operationally critical. Data can have either attribute or in some cases, both. Examples:
- System of Record: Last month’s sales receipts.
- Operationally Critical: Urgent customer support tickets.
Although last month’s sales receipts are very important data, critical for financial reporting and needs to be preserved for years, if the system that stores this information goes offline, chances are that business can survive for a 48 hour period without access to this information. In contrast, an urgent support ticket is information that is needed immediately. There may be Service Level Agreement at stake. What do you do if your SaaS provider tells you that access to this information won’t be possible for a couple of days. What do you tell the business?
We have made the decision to back up both types of our data nightly to our own corporate databases. Great SaaS vendors make it easy to access this data… it’s OUR data. But if the worst happens, we will be able to create ad hoc reports to satisfy immediate needs.
If you have engaged a quality SaaS provider it’s unlikely they would be off the air for more than 12-24 hours. And failures like that shouldn’t occur often. Make sure you ask about Recovery Time Objectives for disaster recovery when you are shopping for SaaS services. Your prospective SaaS provider should be prepared with an answer!