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Cover your aaS: Don’t let as-a-service models hold you hostage

Living in the country, many of my neighbors have farms. Some grow industry crops like soybean and cotton, while others raise animals for meat or dairy products. I’m in a perpetual state of begging my husband for all kinds of animals – goats, alpaca, sheep, cows. You name it; I want it! His rebuttal is always the same. “You can buy goat milk, cheese, beef, and fiber from the people in the area for less money and fewer headaches than it would cost to raise our own.” I won’t tell him to his face, but he’s right.

The same is true in the business and technology world. Managing an on-premise data center, building a content management system, or developing in-house marketing automation or CRM platforms doesn’t make fiscal sense for most businesses. This realization has given way to the beautiful world of “everything-as-a-service.” Everything from HR software to automation platforms, accounting tools to website CMS are available for a monthly fee. Even better? The provider puts in the time and resources to keep these platforms up-to-date and running smoothly – not you.

Buyer Beware – Not all SaaS terms of service are created equal

Recently, we were talking with a client that was looking to migrate his website off a particular platform. He had previously worked with a digital marketing company that offered a “pay-as-you-go” website offering. For a monthly fee, they would design, host, and update his website for him. As it turned out, he wasn’t updating his site enough to justify the $250/month fee, so he wanted to move the site to something his team could manage internally. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?

Here’s the kicker. When he tried to do this, the provider told him that he couldn’t migrate his site to another hosting company. Instead, he would have to pay another company to recreate the site to host it elsewhere. Let’s assume he had his website up for a year with his current digital marketing company. He’s essentially paid $3000 for a website that he doesn’t get to take with him. That doesn’t sound fair, does it?

A little bit of homework goes a long way

Sadly, it’s more common than you would think. Many businesses overlook the provider’s terms of service in haste. Before you take the plunge and begin building your business on an aaS platform, be sure to read the fine print and protect yourself from getting burned in the long run. Your provider’s terms should explicitly outline who owns the data that is created and stored within the application or platform. Furthermore, it should be easy to export or migrate that data in a non-proprietary manner so you can use it elsewhere if desired.

Before you sign a user agreement, ask these questions:

  • Who owns the data created in the application/platform?
  • Can I easily export this data for use elsewhere?
  • What format is available for export?

While it may be a little unsavory to consider “divorcing” your provider before the relationship even begins, asking these questions can save you from a considerable amount of frustration and expense down the road. If you’re looking at a particular SaaS provider and you are unsure if your aaS is covered, call us. We’ll be happy to ask the tough questions and give you a non-biased assessment of what you might be getting yourself into with a particular provider.