The Key to Reusing SaaS Data for Business Gain

By Joe Gaska, CEO, GRAX.

Well before the pandemic sent companies into WFH mode and IT teams scrambling for remote-enabling solutions, enterprises had been using cloud-based, or SaaS, apps for their cost saving, scalability, efficiency and collaboration benefits.

That may be why, despite the pandemic’s economic downturn, cloud spending was predicted to grow 19% in 2020 even as other IT spending slowed, according to industry analyst Gartner. And now with the pandemic having further validated the use of cloud, spending is continuing to ratchet up, with SaaS apps leading the way.

These days you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on SaaS. IT professionals report that one-third of their mission-critical apps, from e-commerce and ERP to marketing automation and CRM, are now in the cloud. For example, Salesforce is used by 50% of enterprises per ESG Research. Apps like these are where decisions are made and business takes place.

SaaS App Data Backup: Vital Yet Missing

With so much of a business’ key operations running in the cloud, you’d think that backing up SaaS app data would be a given. But that’s not the case. Many companies don’t backup their SaaS data because they believe their app vendors are doing it for them. However, just because a vendor is keeping their SaaS app running, doesn’t mean they’re protecting the data residing inside of it. In fact, they’re usually not. And often it’s only after there’s a service failure or end-users unwittingly change or delete data, that organizations realize their data is gone and can’t be recovered.

It’s Not Just for Insurance

When companies back up critical data, one of the key factors they need to consider is frequency. Or, in other words, how much data loss they’re willing to tolerate if the original source gets corrupted. For mission-critical SaaS applications, that amount of time (known as RPO - recovery point objective) is shrinking fast. According to ESG, more than half of organizations that use Salesforce, for example, now expect RPOs to be less than 15 minutes, and nearly 1/4 expect zero minutes. Zero data loss.

Why is it so low? One obvious reason is disaster recovery. Organizations want to capture as much data as possible as often as possible — including changes made to that data — in the event of service failure or data corruption.

But the case for high-frequency backup extends beyond using it as an insurance policy. A huge motivating factor is SaaS data reuse. Business users throughout an enterprise - from customer success, marketing and finance to sales and product teams - are eager to tap into SaaS app data for their own purposes. And the more historical data they have, the better they can model and conduct their operations.

The Case for Reuse

Enterprises reuse SaaS data in a variety of ways. For instance, they preserve and use the data for compliance, auditing and reporting purposes. They tap into it for customer service and retention, application and product development, and cybersecurity testing and sandboxing. They reuse it for analytics and to feed machine learning and AI training sets.

These secondary data use cases deliver tremendous strategic benefits beyond critical team-specific data intelligence. They accelerate digital transformation and business agility by enabling much greater data visibility, lowering operational costs, increasing efficiencies even as data scales and improving business uptime and resiliency to cyber attacks.

SaaS Data Reuse Challenges

Accessing SaaS data for reuse purposes, however, can be quite challenging. Most companies use SaaS app APIs to get direct access to that data. However, when too many users do this, they hit their organization’s API limits and have to pay more in order to increase them. The SaaS app’s performance also takes a hit, frustrating users and impacting productivity.

Once they do access the data, many people copy it into their own folders and systems. ESG estimates that as a result, 1TB of production data often turns into 8TB - 9TBs of actual data. Some organizations don’t even know how many copies of data they have when it comes to reuse. As you can imagine, this quickly becomes a compliance, security and data management nightmare, not to mention being operationally inefficient.

Effective SaaS Data Reuse

It’s clear that in order to cost-effectively and efficiently leverage SaaS app data for reuse, companies can’t rely on APIs. But they can rely on their backed up data if they:

1. Capture data at high frequency so business users have everything needed to optimize the value they get from the data.

2. Back up data directly into their own environment rather than a third-party system. If it sits in a backup vendor’s infrastructure, users can run into accessibility challenges. In addition, the risk of security breaches and data corruption increase along with the number of touchpoints.

3. Back it up in your own AWS or Azure data lake infrastructure. This eliminates silos and enables more people throughout the enterprise to easily and safely access it.

4. Make sure the data is in its original form so it can be accurately and confidently reused and fed into other systems.

Chances are high that SaaS app data is already been reused in pockets of your organization, although not nearly as effectively or efficiently as it could be. To help users make the most of that data and drive better business outcomes, while keeping

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