44 ; INC. ; JUNE 2019 ; ; ; ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS GASH
GET OFF OF THAT CLOUD
Storage vendors can box
you in if you try to switch.
How to avoid the data trap.
By Minda Zetlin A decade ago, storing data in the cloud seemed risky. Today, cloud-based, software-as-a-service applications such as G Suite,
O;ce 365, and Salesforce have made
outsourcing data storage simple. But
not risk-free. One big issue: With each
of them, data is stored in a format that
won’t work well outside that applica-
tion. It can make switching from one
to another tricky.
Just ask the Intern Group, a startup
that places students in international
internships. In 2016, the company
consolidated its data. Some was in
Google Sheets, some was in the cus-tomer-relationship management application Highrise, and some was in a
second CRM app, Contactually. Intern
Group wanted to consolidate within
Vtiger, yet another cloud CRM app.
Moving databases was hard
enough—and then there were the
emails. “We have partnerships with
universities,” explains Kevin Harper,
director of technology and operations.
“Think about relationship building—
there’s a long email history.”
Highrise returned those emails in
an unusable form. “Every single email
we ever had with a particular partner,
we got it back in one really long text
file,” he says. Frustrated, Harper hired
a developer to write code that would
convert the emails into a usable format,
which cost about $5,500. Next time,
he says, he’ll find out in detail what will
happen if Intern Group wants its data
back before signing with any cloud
Sometimes, switching isn’t worth it.
This became clear to key-duplication
firm minuteKey, which hosts its applications on Amazon Web Services. In 2018,
minuteKey was acquired by the Hillman
Group, which uses Microsoft Azure.
Senior vice president of IT Scott Moore
says he was facing six months of devel-
opment work to move minuteKey’s data
over to Azure. “It crossed our minds to
do it and quickly left,” he says. Instead,
the companies use integration software
that lets their two environments work
together securely. “When you’re a
startup, it’s easy to do things in the
cloud,” Moore says. “But, like it or not,
you’re buying into their solution.”