Image by Paul Jacobson via Flickr
This is the third post in the SaaS Risk Reduction Series. In the previous post,
I talked about not keeping all eggs in one basket. There are people who
will not consider it as an important aspect of risk reduction. Even
though I disagree with the idea, they do have very valid points.
However, I don’t think anyone will disagree with today’s topic related
to risk reduction. I am going to talk about the importance of
considering open formats when selecting a SaaS vendors.
Open formats are those file formats whose specifications are
published openly and are not restricted to a single vendor or a
software or a web application. With the open availability of
specifications, the data in the open file formats can be accessed from
any software/application that supports the file specification. You are
not locked in with a single vendor’s software or web application.
Examples of open formats include plain ascii text, html, odf, pdf, dvi,
rtf, ogg, png, etc..
While selecting a SaaS vendor, it is important for us to ensure that
the vendor will allow us to export our data in at least one of the
various open formats available for the particular kind of data. For
example, Google Docs supports supports export of documents into text, html, openoffice, PDF, RTF and Word formats. Zoho Writer
goes even further and support Latex and DOCX (purists, please don’t pounce on me for including DOCX in the list. Even I have my own reservations about it but that debate is for another forum) formats along with the ones supported by Google.
The option to export data in open formats is very important in the
SaaS world. Already, we are putting our data into the third party data
centers and, thereby, giving up some control over our data for the sake
of other additional conveniences offered by SaaS. On top of it, if the
vendor locks in the data without giving an option to export it into one
of the open formats, it is just a disaster waiting to happen. We can as
well put our company’s bank information in an open website. Once we
put our data with such a SaaS vendor, we are struck with the vendor
forever and we will be at their mercy when it comes to pricing and service
reliability. No smart business owner would ever want to put their
business at such a risk.
I strongly suggest that the users also make sure that the SaaS
vendors allow them to easily export their data in one of the open
formats with just a few clicks. It is important that the SaaS users are
not bogged down with a complicated export process. Just say no to SaaS
vendors who don’t offer an option to export the data in open formats.
I am intentionally keeping this series without any technical details.
The goal of this series is to help small business owners finetune their
Previous articles in the series: