23 May 2016 by Kelly Mills
When putting anything of value on a computer anywhere, it’s important to consider the following;
- How do I get my important stuff out again?
- Will I be able to view my important stuff after I get it out of the cloud or move it to another computer?
- Is my private stuff protected and mine?
Each of these 3 basic questions is equally important.
How do I get my important stuff out?
Take the example that you are a law firm and you have used a cloud based software package for three years, but you think that there are other products on the market that might be a better fit for you, so you want to get your data and documents out of your current system.
You have saved thousands of documents to your document management software in the cloud in that time, and now when you go to leave, you find out that there isn't a routine that allows you to extract your data all at once in a manageable format, in fact the provider tells you to email the documents to yourself , but you can only attach about 10 at a time. Ouch!
It is akin to finding out that you have to download each of your photos from drop box one by one. Luckily, Drop box has an easy extract button. But beware a lot of the business software isn't so generous, and why would they be, you being trapped with them, is a licence fee for life. While strictly speaking, you may 'own the data', the fact that you have to download each document individually, logistically inhibits that ownership.
Will I be able to view my important stuff after I get it out of the cloud?
Using Drop box as a fine example again; when I download my photo's to my computer I can choose any number of generic photo viewers to view a photo, same goes for documents or PDF's... Yay!
But is it the same for say accounting data? Your software provider allows extraction of your 'Data File', how do you plan to read that database without the software tool online. What program will you use to open the database and read the last 5 years’ worth of accounting data, how will you reprint reports? Will you have to buy a desktop version of the software to view the data (another cost), or worse, is there no desktop version, will you be forced to pay for a subscription for the cloud software to see your financial records for ever, or as long as they are needed by you?
P.S at least if you get the data, some other provider might be able to extract the data and convert it to a new system. But you should check if any other provider can do an extraction and how much that might cost. Conversions can run into the thousands!
Is my private stuff protected and mine?
This is a question that you must ask. Which means it is time to start reading the contract.
Sometimes you own your data, but so does the provider, eek! Is your information and your clients information protected and private. Which (legal) jurisdiction is your contract based? What if there is a dispute over payment, will I get my data, or will it be held to ransom for payment.
I once had a legal client retype 1 years’ worth of books, to get out of Quick Books online, and it’s not the last time I have witnessed laborious efforts like this.
Remember before you start saving work, documents, financials or photos anywhere, ensure you have an exit strategy. Don't be afraid to ask your software or hosting company in advance, because asking this question when it’s time to leave, is the time that the provider is the least helpful!