SaaS cloud computing: Questions to ask when moving data to the cloud

If we move from our internal app to a SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud computing, are there circumstances in which we could lose control or even ownership of our data?

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I am not aware of any situations where you might lose ownership, but you should always ask. The grey area may be a situation where a vendor like Facebook might appear to function as an application platform and data ownership, defined by me as your right to delete it, might be open to question.

Control is another matter, and the answer is that it depends on what you mean by it. Let’s face it, another entity somewhere out “there” is running the disk farm and backing up your data so your forfeit a great deal of control by moving to the cloud. The acid test has always been whether or not you could get the vendor to back up your chunk of data and send it to you as a delimited file (then delete it). But, let’s face facts, the data is useful when handled by an application that knows its structure. So before you attempt to grab your data back from a vendor and sever links, make sure you have a way to import that file and to use it in a new application.

A larger question that everyone should get into the habit of asking involves the vendor’s general policies. What are the up-time guarantees for instance? We’ve all grown up with the SaaS cloud computing market which had rather humble beginnings, for instance in a closet in Marc Benioff’s apartment. But we have gradually grown to demand and to expect more rigor in how our data is handled.

We are entering an age of computing services as a utility and like other utilities, we expect them to be always on, always available. Typically that means nine 9’s of availability, not the three we have now or the fiver we aspire to. So ask your prospective vendors. They’ll have answers because it’s a hot topic.

This was first published in May 2012

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