I mentioned in the first part of this article how NetSuite has no out of the box relational data export functionality and the relational export “option” costs around $4,000.00.  I have quotes around the word option because other CRM vendors I have direct experience with do not consider this an option and is either free or in the case of ZOHO costs $10.00.

Maybe someone with admin experience with other hosted CRM vendors can comment on what the pricing is for a full, relational export of your data in their system is.  Also maybe someone can comment on the NetSuite process.  I am not sure but I believe the $4K gets you ODBC access only .  I believe that some programmer still has to create scripts to get the data out in a relational format.  If that is true how much time/cost is involved?

When we were trying to move away from NetSuite getting our data out was HUGE problem for us so I thought I should explain why this is important for anyone considering any type of SaaS where your data is hosted on someone else’s server.

The first thing you need to consider is that if you can not get your data out in a useful format for a reasonable price then you really do not own your company any more, your SaaS vendor does.  In the case of NetSuite if you want to leave you will have to pay a minimum of a $4,000 as an exit fee.  Also they know this, so when it comes time to negotiate a renewal do not expect a lot of flexibility on their part.

Another thing to consider is that your data backup plan is now 100% tied to your SaaS vendor.  If they go down for any reason you are left with nothing to rebuild from.  According to this article in Information Week titled SaaS Vendor NetSuite Has No Separate Backup Center For Customer Data, well, I think the title of the article says it all, please read for the details.

So I think we know what to avoid in a SaaS data backup/export process, what does the process look like with some other CRM vendors?  Refer to part one for the initial findings.  The rest of this post will go through the ZOHO CRM process of getting your data out of their system.

To get to the data export function in ZOHO CRM just got to Setup >> Data Administration Tools >> Export All Data.  You get to the data backup request form below.

You fill out the form, pay the $10.00.  The first thing you get is an email with a link and a long password.  Once you are verified you get another email with two separate links.  One for your data in CSV format and one for any file attachments. I like the dual security features of this process.  One, you have to be verified and two, you can only download the backup files when you are logged into the account.

So what do you get for your ten bucks?  Well, in a word, everything. The Data zip file contains all of the tables of information in your CRM database clearly labeled with relational ID’s and all of the custom fields that we added are included.

I am not going to bore you or stretch my technical knowledge of relational databases but in order for the data to be useful each record in each table needs an ID number that relates that information to other tables.  For example Contacts would be related to an Account by the Account ID.  If the data comes out of the system with no relation ID’s it is essentially useless.

I asked our CTO, Corey Krehel how much effort it would be to get this CSV information into a relational database and he said as long as there are IDs it is almost an automatic import process.  Point and click and you have a working backup of your data.  I feel better already.  You can not believe how much time and money we spent just getting to this process when we were trying to leave NetSuite.

The attachments zip file has all of the files attachments in separate zip files that are related to the specific record they are attached to.  Not much to explain here, it just works.

It is nice to see such a well thought out process in ZOHO CRM.  To my professional eye it looks as if the data back-up/export feature was planned and architected right from the start.  I think that says a lot about ZOHO and the type of company they are.  Conversely I think the fact that the total lack of any out of the box data/export functionality in NetSuite says a lot about them.