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As previously blogged there are risks with using cloud that differ from self hosting solutions. SaaS, PaaS and all the other XaaS offerings aren’t a panacea. Hopefully you won’t become the next Sony as the provider keeps you patched etc. But if you’re using a SaaS provider that goes bust or you get into litigation with your provider, as result losing access to your data. It could be potentially be months whilst the lawyers sort things out. A horrible situation that no one wants to find themselves in. But how to mitigate such risks?

Any half decent SaaS provider should give directly the means to get a view of all your data through a generic or custom report (s), or will should make available the means for providing an export of your data. The later approach may well come with a cost. If your SaaS solution has a lot of data in place – for example a multinational’s HR solution you may want to just target the extract of deltas. This means extra donkey work and someone to ensure it is happening. How frequently that should depend upon your business needs through an agreed Recovery Point Objective and the tolerance to potential data loss as you can assume you’ll lose everything from the last snapshot. If you have middleware in front of your SaaS service you can have a wiretap to reduce the risk here.

Your net position is in the event of a loss or possibly a prolonged service outage (remember even Amazon have had multi-day failures & not all SaaS solutions follow good cloud practise of being able to fail to secondary centres) is that you have your data and can atleast cobble something together to bridge the gap. Unless you SaaS vendor is offering you something very unique then they’re probably going to have competitors that are more than likely to be glade to help you import the data into their solution for you.

All this for a case of paranoia? Well actually you can have harvest a raft of other benefits from taking full data extracts – for example reconciliation with a view to managing data quality – statistics from Experian show the value of resolving discrepancies. This is to say – that you might find data errors between systems as a result things like edge scenarios such as handling errors in the integration layer. To illustrate the point, let’s assume that your web sales channel is via a SaaS provider and you’re receiving the sales into your on premise ERP for fulfilment and accounting. By taking every week all transactions in the SaaS solution you can identify and discrepancies and reconcile any issues between the sales solution, your finance and fulfilment capabilities to ensure what you have sold is what you have accounted for.  If we’re talking about solutions that impact your financial accounting, then for atleast US declarations it maybe necessary to perform such reconciliation in support of Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) requirements.

Add to this a richer data set can be added to your Big Data or Data Warehouse environments allowing you to gain potentially further insights into your activities.

When you are running a hybrid of on premise and cloud solutions or event just cloud but a mix of vendors don’t just think about you application data, but consider whether audit and web traffic information can be retrieved from the vendor – there maybe value in feeding that data into a solution such as Splunk which may then find a pattern of misuse or attack that may not show up with just the monitoring data from your on premise solutions.

The final point I should make, is don’t assume your service provider will let you at the data as described – look at your contracts before any payment or act of agreement. Ideally such checks should be part of your service due diligence activities (along with ESCROW) etc. There are SaaS providers who will consider the data as their property not yours even when the data might be about your employees.