Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SaaS lock-in practical test

Although SaaS helps users to solve their daily business tasks in quite a different way, and this is exactly why I am so into it, there are some issues the customer inevitably faces within any system.

This time I would like to demonstrate on practice how really difficult it is to migrate the data from one SaaS vendor to another.

Blist is the system I’ve chosen to migrate the data from. In case you just need the list of whatever it may be, with the opportunity to embed it into your blog or website, blist is at your command.

The product I wanna migrate to is TrackVia and my choice is determined by the following factors:

First, lately TrackVia blog was full of posts promoting the option to embed view results into a blog/website again, again and again. This was the major reason I've chosen it for the app transiotion from blist.

Second, Chris Basham, CEO of TrackVia has left the comment here. He said TrackVia service Department wouldn’t mind to be tested. So, as long as I am a lazy fellow, as we all kinda are, I would’t mind if somebody could do all the hard work for me.

Let’s take a look at typical Blist list:

Looking at this app I anticipate the user will have definite problems while data transition. Actually, I can hardly recall a sole system out there that allows automatic importing of data with attachments or links to external files.

And there is one more thing, the column Reviews – the problem is it contains variable quantity of links.

The good news is it’s not my concern, that’s why I contacted TrackVia support and asked for help to migrate this Blist app into TrackVia. Matt Strenz, Customer Support Engineer from TrackVia, answered my questions:
"We used the export option in Blist to get this brought into a CSV file that we then saved as an Excel document so it could be imported into TrackVia. The one thing we want to mention is that we have ways of dealing with importing and exporting images that Blist or other services may not offer. … If the service they are coming from provides a way to get all images into a .zip file that follows some sort of naming convention we can programmatically bring these into a database."

So, I took the file Matt had sent to me and imported it into TrackVia:

This is how the result looks:

And here we are done with good news.

At first Blist surprised me, since developers didn’t foresee the way to get the images back. This is an interesting post I found in Blist forum on this topic.

After that, as I expected, I had an issue with Review field. I really doubt one can work successfully with such a data using paragraph field. I guess vendor is aware of that and it won’t be really out of place if TrackVia Support offered at least some formal solution to this problem.


One can see its not that simple to migrate the data anywhere, even from such a simple app as we have. This is exactly why its so important to make the right choice of vendor, because in case you decide to move your app elsewhere, it will be really painful.


  1. I guess this is where the mundane aspect of linked data is an advantage for the little guy.

    Q:When will the utopia of dereferenceable URI's become a reality?

    When the mission critical folks need it worse than SME poeple taht use things like blist.

    Somewhere, like Batman, Kingsley Idehen is reading this and saying..."yes, little business man, Openlink can help." HA!

  2. My typos are atrocious. Did I misspell that too?