Cloud technology has taken over as the go-to storage solution and hosting platform for businesses the world over, meaning software escrow has had to step up its game to protect web based software users. Software as a Service (SaaS) popularity is growing as businesses owners choose to access their software via a separately hosted application or service link instead of downloading it to their own systems, but there are many implications in protecting this software. The efficiency of cloud computing is highly dependent on the efficiency of its host, and even the most advanced technology has the potential to fail. Protecting software through escrow is beneficial, but what happens when software escrow simply doesn’t work with cloud based software?
In the event of a supplier or provider going bust, customers using escrow agreements for traditional software will gain access to their source code from the agent so that they can transfer the software over to a new host, however this is not always possible with SaaS services. If software is provided via a cloud or web based service, access may simply stop if the supplier stops paying bills or stops trading.
If a customer has opted for SaaS that is available on a public cloud, then the software itself is likely to be a standard version rather than a bespoke programme. SaaS is usually just that, a service, and very little if anything will actually be downloaded onto the client’s computer. Furthermore, Cloud based SaaS is typically offered at a much cheaper rate on the basis that this software is available to multiple end users, and providers are unlikely to want to enter in to multiple software escrow agreements with each and every customer.
In order for software escrow to work with cloud computing, the customer needs to ensure that not only is their data protected but also the hosting of it, and as such back-up copies should be made on the software escrow’s own cloud. Of course this too has its limitations, as the back-ups may not always include the most up to date information, which would render the software escrow agreement redundant. One way to get around this may be to choose an escrow agent with a verification service so that any deposited source code will be checked and that they request regular deposits of code as and when the supplier updates and maintains it. The customer would also need to identify a third party supplier and name them in the escrow agreement should the software need to be hosted elsewhere at short notice.
If software escrow isn’t compatible with your current cloud computing, it is worth evaluating your current cloud provider as insuring your business critical software is one investment you shouldn’t opt out of. Software escrow has the potential to protect both your software and client data, meaning that your business can continue operating as normal even in the event of a supplier change, so make sure that your cloud provider can cater to your needs. Customers need to know how their supplier is hosting the service, is it their own server or are they renting space from a data centre? If the latter, customers may have the option to cut out the middleman and deal direct with the data centre in the event of a supplier ceasing to trade. Ignorance is definitely not bliss in business, and cloud based software customers need to carefully consider their software escrow contracts and explore the worst case scenarios up front for long term peace of mind.