The SaaS purist are always suggesting that a key characteristic of a true SaaS service provider, is to have the ability for it’s clients to easily take their data and move to another service. Whilst in principle I agree with this, I think clarification is required.
If you’ve been using a properitary system like SAP, your data is in their format, stored in some relational database system. Its near impossible to migrate to another ERP, without a considerable amount of work.
The key point is that for the most part, there is no common way, to describe and hence then store your data in some intermediate format. This would hold true, regardless if the service was on-premise or off-premise.
Now I’m looking at Salesforce.com, and am trying to investigate the work required to move to say SugarCRM, either hosted myself or by an on-demand provider. Are there tools available for me to export my complete CRM data from Salesforce.com and then import into SugarCRM? Not that I can find.
I’m not saying that I don’t like Salesforce.com. In fact, I’m liking the tool but believe there may be cheaper options that are more appropriate for our circumstances. For example I want to integrate to our existing LDAP server and also maybe to my local Apple Address Book on my Mac Book Pro.
Now Salesforce, gives me means to export data through reports. I haven’t tried it yet, but looking at the process, it seems to have all the fields, including the additional ones that I created. Thus I can export data in some form, to potentially be loaded elsewhere. But this is not the same as the expectations that I think most users would have to then be able to utilise it quickly on the new service. Whilst there is some flexibility on importing information into Salesforce, for existing accounts and contacts. I can already see that the history of what has occurred would possible be lost.
But Salesforce is regarded as a leader in the SaaS space. Yet the capabilities are not there as readily, I would say, as the purists would expect to export or import my complete data. I think, for most users, once the commitment has been made to utilise the service, that they acknowledge that the real commitment, will be longer then the life of the initial subscription.
The need to export data, and in what format, can only be determined, at this time, once a new service has been selected. Correct me if I’m wrong here? SaaS providers can tick the box, they can placate some of the Purists, but is it really what the person paying the bills want?