Data Ownership and Software as a Service

Bert Armijo or 3tera wrote about Trendmapper, and in his opening sentence, he wrote:

The beauty of the Internet is software becomes so easy to use that you can hundreds of useful little services without thinking about them... until they're gone.

The idea of Software as a Service (SaaS) holds the key to Web 2.0. Instead of buying half dozen of software packages to handle everyday needs, you just use applications delivered over the Internet. Nothing needs to be stored on your local hard drive, all upgrades are taken care of, and everything belongs to you can be accessed from anywhere with a browser and Internet connection.

There are so many useful web-based applications out there, and even TechCrunch can't list them all. People grow to depend on them -- imagine a day without Gmail or Del.icio.us? However, the concern Bert has raised is, what if they are suddenly gone?

Long time computer users would have suffered enough pain to remember keeping regular backups of their treasured data on their harddrive. How many of you actually backup everything in your Gmail account, or your photos on Flickr, or your bookmarks in Del.icio.us, or your blog posts on Live Space? Sure, the likeliness of Google, Yahoo! and MSN fold out of sudden is very slim. But what about the smaller players, where you trust your data to them equally?

For example, if you are a Kiko calendar user, wouldn't you be worried when the site was auctioned eBay? It's great that Tucows bought them, but what if the auction passed-on and fall through? Well, there's also Google Calendar that you can move to, but where is that "import from my Kiko account" button that let you recover all your appointments?

As the bubble is more inflated, you'll likely to see many more declared dead. It is easy for a basement operation to declare defeat, but what about their users? What about the time they spent on your services? What about their valuable data?

I guess moving to SaaS is inevitable. At work we are also delivering software applications via the ASP model, as it is much much easier in maintenance. We too have been challenged with similar questions -- "Is our data safe in your hands?" "Will database be provided if we terminate the service?" We have to again and again assure them that "we are backed by a listed company with international operations." "all your data is safe with us." etc.

I guess the same when we approach a Web 2.0 company. If you intend to use this service for a few years, instead of just taste-testing the service, then you gotta ask the same question -- do you trust this company or organisation over the time span that you intend to use the service?

These days, I usually only rely on services provided by the big boys like Google, Yahoo, MSN or Amazon. There are fancier, more powerful and more "Web 2.0"'ish implementations out there, which I enjoyed playing with. But no commitment unless I can be firmly assured.