The 16 Must-Have Features of a SaaS Backup Solution

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is relatively new to most markets and companies, and third-party backups for these cloud applications are newer still. What are the must-have features for a SaaS backup system? Here are the 16 most-requested features by Backupify‘s customers.

  1. Backup Historical and Progressive Data
    A backup solution should protect all the data in your system, not just the data that’s added after you install the backup. If you need to restore data that has been unaltered for three years – which is precisely the sort of historical content that is prone to corruption or accidental deletion – your backup system should have a copy of it on hand.
  2. Data Versioning (Incremental Backups)
    Backing up just the most recent version of SaaS data means that – if you don’t catch an error before your backup archive updates – you have two copies of corrupted data. Data versioning means you have multiple copies of the same data elements, each captured at regular intervals, allowing you to roll back to whichever state has the most accurate or necessary information.
  3. Local Export Options
    Data trapped in your cloud application should not be equally trapped in your cloud application backup. Your SaaS backup provider should offer local download and export options so you can keep local copies of any items (or even accounts) you deem fit.
  4. Scheduled and User-Initiated Backups
    Regular, scheduled, automated backups ensure that no critical data is omitted from your archives simply because an administrator forgot to trigger a backup. User-initiated backups ensure that, following a critical update to live SaaS data, the backup archive can be immediately updated to ensure this data is protected. A competent backup system should offer features, rather than simply one or the other.
  5. Proactive Status Updates and Error Notification
    Backup administrators shouldn’t have to log into a backup system – let alone individual backup accounts – to learn whether a backup process has been successful. The backup application should proactively alert admins to backup failures and, ideally, allow an admin to diagnose and correct the problem as soon as possible from a central interface.
  6. Support for Your Recovery-Time Objectives (RTO)
    It’s not enough for a cloud application backup to restore data; it must restore data fast enough that your business isn’t significantly harmed by data loss. How long does it take to restore one item, one account, or the complete data archive? Know the answer before you deploy your SaaS backup solution.
  7. Restore for Individual Items
    Rarely is all the data corrupted or erased from a cloud application; a typical data loss scenario involves only a handful of missing or damaged items. Your SaaS backup solution should allow you to restore just those items – the mail your user accidentally erased, or the single table your database dropped – rather than deal with reinserting a complete copy of your entire account (or archive) back into your cloud application.
  8. System-Wide Search
    Most restoration tasks involve single items, so your SaaS backup solution should make it easy to find those individual items within your archives – and that requires system-wide search. Manually browsing chronological archives can significantly slow down restore efforts, and search is a must-have shortcut to ensure your Restore-Time Objectives are met.
  9. Comprehensive Data Backup (AKA “Complete Suite” Backup)
    Many SaaS backup products only backup a portion of the data in your cloud application, often leaving out certain feature sets (backing up text but not images, documents but not emails) or ignoring key metadata (emails but not attachments; documents but not their tags and access control lists, etc.). Your cloud application backup should protect every data type necessary to keep your SaaS solution running with full data integrity.
  10. Centralized Account Management
    Administrators should be able to view backups and archives for all accounts through a single interface, so that as your business grows and you add new employees, account administration stays fast and efficient.
  11. Robust Permission Controls
    Administrators should be able to monitor and control what features their users can enable, disable or configure. Backups do you no good if end users can prevent or delete them without administrator knowledge or consent.
  12. Streamlined, Versatile Onboarding
    A backup solution should allow administrators to quickly opt-in which user accounts to include in the backup archives. Mandatory backups for all accounts are unacceptable, as is a tedious, manual selection process. The SaaS backup solution should also allow for new SaaS application users to automatically be backed up.
  13. Documented Security Procedures
    A backup provider should offer documented security procedures for the transfer and protection of your data. It’s not enough to claim to be “secure;” your SaaS backup provider should be prepared to give reasonable specifics – like level of encryption of data at rest, and which data transactions occur over SSL – to assure the safety of your data.
  14. Documented Support Options
    A cloud application is only as good as its technical support, and this goes doubly so for SaaS backup services, as you’ll be relying on your backups to function during times of need. Your SaaS backup solution should have a clear method for contacting technical support and self-service support options (like FAQs and help forums) so you can work towards solving problems on your own, without waiting on a response from the service provider. It’s not either-or, it’s both.
  15. Documented Service Level Agreement
    Just as you wouldn’t purchase a SaaS product or cloud application without a documented Service Level Agreement, the system backing up your cloud apps should have an SLA. Specifically, your backup system should lay out explicit uptime guarantees and the compensation provided if those guarantees aren’t met.
  16. Flexible Billing
    Your SaaS backup solution should offer as much contract flexibility as the service it’s backing up. It should fit into your existing buying and budget cycle, not force another one on you.

These are general points about backing up any SaaS application, though specific SaaS apps often have specific needs. What’s true of, say, Google Apps backup may not be explicitly applicable to a Salesforce backup solution. With that in mind, are there must-have features you don’t see on this list? Got questions about how well Backupify meets each checkpoint? We’d be glad to hear from you in the comments section.