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Blogs > MWD Advisors

Freemium tools for business: don't overlook the risks
Angela Ashenden By: Angela Ashenden, Principal Analyst, MWD Advisors
Published: 11th September 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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You may have seen yesterday the news about outages on DNS and web hosting company GoDaddy’s sites, which reportedly took down millions of sites. While everything seems to be back to normal now, there has been some interesting fallout from the event, as social task management vendor Asana confirms that this will accelerate its pre-existing plans to switch to a more reliable DNS provider. Both GoDaddy and Asana were quick to reassure customers that no sensitive data was put at risk by the outage, but this incident serves to demonstrate the risks associated with business use of freemium services such as this. As an emerging player, and like many small, innovative SaaS companies in the same position, Asana offers its services for business use free of charge for up to 30 users, with subscription-based pricing available for larger teams. But while this is clearly targeted at business use, again like many others in its position, there is no service level agreement (SLA) in place – THE SERVICE IS PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS (from Asana’s Terms of Service) – and the company takes no liability for any loss of data which may occur in a service outage such as the one yesterday.

I don’t say this to knock Asana; I understand the importance in developing the service through allowing people to use it and gaining feedback on what works and what doesn’t, plus of course the company needs to gain profile and credibility before it can generate the funds to take a more strategic business-oriented direction, for example. And I also recognise the value of these types of tools from a business user’s standpoint; one of the best ways to get a handle on your requirements when it comes to collaboration software is to try out some tools to see what sticks. But it is very important that organisations are aware of the potential risks of these types of services going down or even going bust – if you can’t get your data out, then you have to be confident that there is no business critical – or even just important – information being stored there. Pilots and requirements exploration are one thing, but if you want to use it as a long-term, strategic business tool, you have to demand the appropriate levels of service guarantee and data security. Don’t get caught up in the convenience and forget the business implications. They bite pretty hard.

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