Let’s assume you have some data on a local computer or on the server in the corner of your office. Let’s make another assumption—for compliance reasons you’re required to keep the data securely for at least a year. This is a typical requirement in several industries. For example, surveyors in the motor insurance industry must keep thousands of images for months. Records that are in files—numbers and text—can be recreated, if lost, from paper files. But when an image is lost it’s kaput for the organization. So what do you do? Naturally, you back it up on another local machine and perhaps, if you are paranoid, in a remote machine as well. Today, an increasing number of companies are opting to secure their data with a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) backup provider (Google and Drop Box being two popular ones that readily come to mind). Now here is the question for the truly paranoid: What happens when the SaaS backup crashes? It could wipe out your entire businesses.
Actually, that question is not only for the super paranoid. According to a study by digital media investment banking group Siemer Associates, 83% of all companies are expected to adopt SaaS[i] as practically every software vendor begins to create SaaS versions of their apps. This means there is a very high likelihood that your company will adopt some form of SaaS and will need to worry about protecting critical SaaS data. Of course, the prevailing general belief is that SaaS data is somehow secure by nature. No one thinks that a SaaS provider will crash, go dark or be the target of a Denial of Service attack that may hold up your business too.
The reason for the loss
Before you read further, ask your head honcho of IT if he/she has a plan—a real, well thought-out plan—in place to back up critical SaaS data. Don’t be surprised if the answer is “no.” The reason? Responsibility for SaaS data backup remains ambiguous. Your SaaS contract may not be too clear on this subject. Or it may attach a hefty cost to data restoration.
What is the likelihood of you experiencing data loss? An Aberdeen study of SaaS data loss showed that 68% of companies using SaaS did not report a data loss (that’s where the myth of ‘SaaS data is secure by nature’ comes from); but 32% reported a variety of data losses[ii]. No one wants to be part of the 32% statistic.
The reasons for data loss are easy to figure out: employees deleting data either by accident or intentionally, malicious hackers, accidental virus, unfortunate data corruption by application errors and during amateur and unstructured migrations that ignore best practices.
Protecting critical SaaS data
How can you insure yourself against loss of data from SaaS environments? In reality the answer is largely what we have heard for years about data in every IT system:
- Replicate your data in different locations, in autonomous systems.
- Opt for a reliable cloud to cloud back up provider, especially if you are generating vast volumes and varieties of data.
- Automate the back up, and based on the volume, adjust the backup frequency to minimize loss.
- Enterprise SaaS applications have generous back up processes—make sure these are included in your contract with the SaaS provider.
- Read your SaaS providers data loss/restore policies carefully.
- Many SaaS providers have back up/recovery solutions with partners—look them up; use them.
- Make certain your contract specifies data recovery SLAs that meet your business needs.
Just as an example, we looked up the data recovery policy for Salesforce.com to see how much of a spot you may be in case of data loss. This is what Salesforce.com has to say: “Because of the manual intervention, there is a cost. The cost is relative to the amount of manual work and time needed to perform the recovery. The price for this service is a minimum of $10K (Ten Thousand US Dollars)”[iii].
Having outlined how to minimize and mitigate data loss for SaaS users, it is important to remember that even if you have secured your data by creating backups, it is essential to ensure that data recovery and restoration processes meet your business needs. That’s why #7 above is perhaps the most important aspect of data management in SaaS environments.
[i] Siemer & Associates, SaaS Report, 2013: http://www.siemer.com/reports/SaaS2013.pdf
[ii] SaaS Data Loss: The Problem You Didn’t Know You Had, Aberdeen Group: http://www.aberdeen.com/Aberdeen-Library/8323/AI-cloud-data-loss.aspx
[iii] What is the Data Recovery Service & how much does it cost? – Knowledge Article Number: 000003594: http://help.salesforce.com/apex/HTViewSolution?id=000003594