Category Archives: SaaS

Notes from the “I told you so” file

Well, it didn’t take too long.  C-Net reports today that Google inadvertently shared some Google docs files with folks they weren’t supposed to be shared with.

Lifehacker ponders whether this is a “minor privacy blunder”.

Meanwhile, Google is busy blaming it on the user (italics are mine):  “We’ve identified and fixed a bug which may have caused you to share some of your documents without your knowledge.”

Yeah, Lifehacker, this isn’t minor.  It never is.  Especially to those individuals who have data that was shared without knowledge.  Oh, and C-Net, you shouldn’t downplay this either – so while mentioning that lost laptops are a security risk, too, it doesn’t do anything to resolve the issue at hand.

Look folks, any breach of privacy, especially in a SaaS/cloud-computing environment is a HUGE problem.  Shore up your contracts today, please (confidentiality, IP indemnification, and exclusions for breach of confidentiality in your limitation of liability language).  Need help doing it?  Just give me a shout.

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Software Licensing Education Series – 400s Track Now Available!

Designed for the busy or on-the-go professional, the Software Licensing Education Series (SLES) is video-based training on the complete gamut of software licensing topics. Presented in a college-course level format, with topics increasing in complexity and building upon prior lessons, the SLES allows an audio-visual learner another way to gain knowledge on licensing topics.  Each video is approximately 20-30 minutes in length, so each Track contains about 2 hours of expert instruction in core software licensing topics!

The 400 Track videos include:
SLES 401 – Services Issues 2
SLES 402 – Maintenance and Support 1
SLES 403 – Maintenance and Support 2 (special 1-hour course)
SLES 404 – ASP and SaaS Issues

(500s Tracks are currently in production and will be released shortly!)

Videos are formatted for a computer or portable video player (such as an iPod) and consist of a slide-show format with voice-over instruction, so you can even learn just by listening!

99.999

Back in the day, we used to fight for five-nine availability.  This meant that you would have access to the product or service 99.999% of the time.  (If you’ve not read Wikipedia’s article on the Myth of the Nines, now’s your chance.)  Mathematically, this equates to only having 5.26 minutes of downtime a year.  Pretty impressive, when you consider how long it takes the average computer to simply reboot.

We would tie the availability requirement to a penalty (aka “financial incentive”).  This is a kissing cousin to service and support response/repair times and similar penalties… and it heavily applies to situations where you need steady and consistent access to a particular product.

For ASP/SaaS products, uptime is extremely important, as it not only defines the amount of time you have access to use the product but also is a measure of the service provider’s value/responsibility (you don’t have access to the product to fix it yourself).  Until recently, though, network bandwidth wasn’t really available to sustain the offerings and was the scapegoat for much of the argument to reduce or eliminate uptime requirements, even if it was the vendor’s back-end server performance causing the problem(s).

As a result, compromises were made to allow uptime calculations only based on daytime work hours (so downtime at night wouldn’t be counted) for those businesses which didn’t have 24/7 operations.  Compromises were also made to allow vendors the ability to challenge a request for credits based on downtime.  Of course, compromises are fine so long as you’re not compromising your business model.

Flash-forward almost a decade.  Gigoam commented recently about the fact that the current movement towards more cloud-based computing is going to require more attention towards availability.  I agree.  And I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t yet seen a likewise return of significant uptime commitments.

The bandwidth is here (to understand the difference between then and now, check out this table and compare 10Base-T versus Gigabit Ethernet, almost a 1000x speed difference) and applications are designed to be a little more efficient, too.  The result is a resurgence of ASP/SaaS products.  There are several that I love, actually.  They’re incredibly good products, with good support and they don’t typically have downtime problems.  But I’m not seeing uptime guarantees of any significant amount.

To get decent uptime availability commitments from your providers, you need to be in-the-know regarding your own proposed usage and the product offering:  Know what the service’s value is to your organization.  Know when it must be available and when it can be down.  Know about server-loads and peak-usage periods.  Know the difference between hot/warm/cold backups and have an understanding of what failover might require.

99.999% availability might never be offered again… but something should be.  Make sure you’re asking for an uptime guaranty from your providers. Never forget that the middle name of ASP and the last name of SaaS is service.


Privacy in a SaaS World

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, but a federal judge just ordered Google to turn over the viewing logs for YouTube (your usernames, IP addresses, etc) as part of the current Viacom v YouTube and Google litigation.  The EFF is fighting this, of course.

But, this doesn’t bode particularly well for privacy and the use of SaaS-type computing (ie: putting your data into someone else’s hands for whatever reason) given the way in which the court interpreted existing law.

Thanks for the notice to:  Unit Structures, ZDNet, and Gizmodo.

PS.  Deleting your account at this point might not help… but I would definitely recommend re-evaluating what you have as your YouTube (and other services’) username and if you use your real names in the profile information.  Just a thought.


Microsoft Equipt

Back in April, we started talking about Microsoft converting home users to a SaaS model, originally code-named Albany.  Today it happened.  Microsoft has finally released a subscription version of Office. That’s right. $69.99**/year allows up to three home-use computers (the same as the regular version of Home and Student) the ability to use this new suite, called Equipt.  The key advertised benefit is that you’ll get all new versions of Office so long as your subscription is current.

Folks – just as I was talking about in the discussion on Invoicing, please watch your pocketbooks on this one.  The current cost of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007 is $147.00 per Circuit City’s website (which is how you will be able to buy Equipt).  Microsoft releases a new version of Office approximately every 4 years.

Four years of Equipt = $69.99*4 = $279.96.

Oh, not to mention that Internet activation will be required.  Which means that they’re going to be keeping a much tighter grip on the leash this time.

Hmmm…  😉


Microsoft trying to convert you from perpetual to SaaS

Well, as I predicted years before I started writing this blog, Microsoft is now trying to convert the average home user from a perpetual software license model to “software as a service” (Saas).

My knee-jerk reaction is that this isn’t going to be good for the average (any) user – business or consumer.  But let’s play it out and see what happens:

In the current, perpetual model, the average cost of Microsoft Office 2007 is $119 (per Amazon.com).  This is a one-time expense and allows you to install Office on two machines (desktop and laptop) so long as you only use it on one machine at any given moment in time.  The average person never buys any kind of support for this product unless it’s a pay-per-incident issue that is SO complex that they can’t get help with it from friends or strangers via the internet.  But you do get all of the updates to the current version of the product (ie: if you’re on version 2004, you’d get all updates to 2004, but not get version 2007).

Because it’s a perpetual license, you can use this product FOR EVER, without ever having to pay another fee to Microsoft unless you want to upgrade to their latest version (which, at the time I’m writing this, happens about every 3 years per platform, alternating between PC and Macintosh).  From a depreciation perspective, if you were going to buy the latest and greatest version of the product every three years, you would divide the purchase price by 3 to find out your annual cost of ownership:  $39.67, which works out to $0.108/day.  Not too bad for the product that supports all of your e-mail, writing, spreadsheet and presentation tasks.

We don’t yet have pricing available for Microsoft’s new online offering, called Albany, but we do know that they’re going to bundle in a few already-available-for-free services.

We also know that Google already offers something quite similar (GoogleDocs) for free.  If you’re already a GoogleDocs user versus a Microsoft Office user, you have made a choice to go with one or the other for a reason (most would say that they choose Microsoft for “guaranteed compatibility” and “support if needed” … and Google users say that they want “openness”, “freedom” and “collaboration ability”).  I highly doubt that Microsoft is going to offer their product/service for free… but I’ve been wrong before.

However, this really isn’t about Microsoft versus Google – it’s about a bigger issue of whether a conversion from Perpetual Licensing to SaaS is really a benefit to either the vendor or the consumer.  Perpetual software users like not having to upgrade every time the vendor releases a “fix.”  They like knowing that they don’t have to keep paying for maintenance when the product hasn’t really changed much over time.  They like having a one-time depreciable expense (if they’re business users).  Oh, and they like knowing that if the vendor ever goes out of business, it doesn’t matter too much, since the software is installed locally.

SaaS offers a level of convenience not found with perpetual products.  You are always on the latest version, always covered by support and you have less of an administrative headache since the product isn’t installed locally.  Sure, you have to have greater bandwidth (I’m guessing Microsoft will actually have you download a full version of the product which will simply “phone home” every time you double-click on the product to use it).  But you give up the ability to sever your ties with the vendor yet continue using the product.

I like the SaaS model for some situations – I use one for my contract management system, for example.  But for everyday, standard use products?  Especially those in millions of homes world-wide?  I’m not sure we’re there yet.  I’m REALLY concerned about the quality of service – and the constant communication connection (from a privacy perspective) of all of these phone-home events.

What do you think?

Software Licensing Trends from Techknowledgyblog

Steve Cosentino has a decent list of software licensing trends posted on yesterday’s Techknowledgyblog

http://techknowledgyblog.squarespace.com/techknowledgy-blog/2008/2/22/software-licensing-trends.html

It’s rare that an attorney in this space actually knows what he’s talking about – but Steve seems to know his stuff (ie: I agree with his position).