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Prepare for Disaster: Going Without Your Favorite Technology

September 14 2012

burnt outAll good things must come to an end. This is as true in the technology world as it is anywhere else. When one or more of your favorite technology solutions becomes unavailable, whether it's because your MLS is changing vendors or the vendor themselves go out of business, it can be upsetting and disruptive. The solution is to be as prepared as possible. Here are a few suggestions.

1) Recognize that it can happen to anyone.

No technology is immune from this possibility. That goes for your website provider, MLS system, your phone, your computer, and more. Take every single tool that you use and imagine life without it; that will give you some idea of the potential realities. You need to have a disaster recovery plan for everything that you cannot live without. It does not need to be planned in great detail – but you need to know the basics.

2) Understand the differences between "software as a service" and installed software.

Even if you're unfamiliar with the term "software as a service" (SaaS), you're certainly familiar with the concept – it usually refers to an application hosted on the Internet. For the purposes of this discussion, when we refer to SaaS, we're also talking about cloud-based software – while there are some fine distinctions between the two, they are very similar in that the data is hosted externally and you access it through a Web browser. This is in contrast to software that is actually installed on your computer (like Microsoft Word) and data stored on your computer (like a Word document).

Whether your application is SaaS or installed on your computer makes a big difference when the vendor goes out of business.

  • SaaS: You should be given some warning that the service will no longer be available (to you, specifically, or in general). However, once the grace period is over, it's gone, baby, gone. Does this mean you shouldn't use cloud-based software? Not at all, it just means you need to be especially prepared. See number 4, below, for a more thorough discussion of this.
  • Installed: You have access to the product for as long as you want to use it. However, you're on your own and will no longer receive security updates or product support.

Many products are a kind of hybrid, with an installed component and cloud-based features. Some transaction managementCRM, and electronic signature applications are good examples of these hybrid products. If you suspect that one of your tools may be hybrid, it's a good idea to ask the vendor about where data is stored and how it can be transferred if you no longer use their product.

3) Read the terms of service.

Reading the fine print for most products is about as much fun as a root canal, but just as necessary if you want to prevent complications. By reading the terms of service for your real estate technology products, you'll understand vital information, such as whether or not the company can repurpose your data, and what happens to your data if they go out of business.

4) Know how to get your data out before you put it in.

In any area of life, it's good to have a back-up plan. This is particularly true when what's at stake is sensitive client data. Be direct with your technology vendor and ask these questions:

  • How do I get my data out?
  • Will I have advance warning if I need to get my data out? How much advance warning?

Regardless of their answers, you'll want to back up your data. In fact, many experts suggest that your data should be saved in three places:

  • Within the application itself (the CRM, transaction management solution, etc.)
  • On your local disk (your computer)
  • Another remote location (somewhere in the cloud). There are lots of different solutions for data backupCarboniteCarbonite and keepvaultkeepvault are two examples, but if you do a Google search for "cloud backup," you will find more companies. If you're a Mac, you may want to consider Time Machine or iCloud.

5) Carefully research your alternatives.

Like it or not, you're going to have to move on and choose a new technology. Your MLS, Association, and broker can help recommend an alternative. RETechnology.com also has a rich product directory powered by ratings and reviews from real agents like you.

When researching these alternatives, keep in mind which features of your previous technology made it so valuable to you – and which features, if any, were missing. And don't get discouraged! Maybe you'll find something you like even better.