A Downside of SaaS: SaaScammers - InformationWeek
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1/7/2008
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David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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A Downside of SaaS: SaaScammers

Some "SaaS" players are fly-by-night companies with all of the creditability of a porn site, and perhaps fewer scruples... Case in point, I needed to recover some files from a failing hard drive and I decided to SaaS-based recovery service a whirl... Not only did it not work, it blew up my system...

I had an experience over the holidays that provided me with a clear example of a downside of SaaS that I had not previously considered. The fact is that some "SaaS" players are fly-by-night companies with all of the creditability of a porn site, and perhaps fewer scruples. When you're dealing with unscrupulous SaaS players, they can hide behind the anonymity of the Web and thus are able to take your money and not deliver. Typically these SaaScammers are very difficult, if not impossible, to contact, locate and thus resolve an issue.To date we've been used to larger SaaS players that live and die by their reputation. However, now we're faced with many smaller players that are more interested in quick money than providing a good service. I think this will be a huge downside of SaaS, and something that you should watch out for.

Case in point, I needed to recover some files from a failing hard drive over the break. I figured I would find a free or shareware utility. I located a product that was SaaS delivered on a popular download site. Based on the reviews, which were stellar, I decided to give this thing a whirl. Long story, short, after recovering the files, toward the end of the process, the thing gave me the blue screen of death. Not only did it not work, it blew up my system. I managed to recover the files myself by rebuilding the FAT table using debug, a trick that I learned a while ago. Now all is well, but I'm out the ducats I shelled out for that service (metered by megabytes).

Okay, I was sure the nice people woul help me, so I scoured the Web site of this file-recovery SaaS provider only to find out that there is no contact e-mail that anybody responds to. The phone number listed is always on fast busy, and there is no address listed, other than the fact that they are in Vegas. Okay, where is the Web site registered? It's registered in Paris with a dummy number. Hmmmmm. I smell a rat.

The good thing about paying with a credit card is that you can kick the thing back, however I paid using PayPal and there is no such process for resolving these kinds of issues. In essence, it's my word against this virtual SaaS bandit, and the money won't be refunded.

So, who do I contact? I don't know. Who do I sue? I need an address to serve the subpoena. Is there some SaaS Consumer Protection Agency? Not yet. Criminal? I guess I'll have to prove that to some attorney general, but in what state?

The lesson learned here is that as SaaS becomes a more popular way to deploy applications and utilities, there will be good providers and bad providers, so watch out. I suspect that the positive reviews for this company where from friends and relatives, or the company itself - nobody verifies those. SaaS providers that don't provide a brick-and-mortar address, don't provide a customer support line that works and that don't have other ways to find a "throat to choke" really should be avoided. I suspect we'll see a lot of these type of issues arise as SaaS become trendier in the world of software. As for these guys, I love a challenge. Count on the fact that I'll track them down somehow. Not for the money, but to right a big wrong.Some "SaaS" players are fly-by-night companies with all of the creditability of a porn site, and perhaps fewer scruples... Case in point, I needed to recover some files from a failing hard drive and I decided to SaaS-based recovery service a whirl... Not only did it not work, it blew up my system...

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