Google rolled out its Cloud Partnership Program this week, marking territory for a massive enterprise play. Plenty of partners have already signed on, anxious to leverage the portfolio of tools powering some of Google’s most successful programs, Apps and services. But even as Google rolls out more features and support around its cloud offering, there’s an important responsibility for each customer when it comes to cloud maintenance and security, especially when you have an end user to consider.
Spanning, a company that makes Spanning Backup for Google Apps, is well aware of the perks surrounding Google’s ecosystem, but also recognizes the need to extend more services to Google’s customers. And as data is being backed up and stored more regularly these days, the matter of disaster recovery and data protection is more important than ever. Spanning recently earned its SSAE 16 certification, solidifying its position as a trusted data manager, a certification that took even Google some time to earn.
In today’s CEO Series we hear from Charlie Wood, CEO of Spanning, who discusses his goals behind earning their SSAE 16 certification and tips for others looking to get certified. He also talks about the things Google will need to do in order to make a bigger impact in the enterprise space, the biggest human errors he sees in data backup and recovery, and his biggest career achievement to date.
Now that you have SSAE 16 certification, what’s your play for the enterprise?
Spanning has enterprise DNA and our SSAE 16 audit is hardcore proof of that. We plan to continue to build business-class products that speak to the needs of corporate buyers. At every Google Apps customer, there’s someone who’s ultimately responsible for ensuring that his or her company’s data is protected. We obsess over the requirements of that person. SSAE 16 certification gives us the opportunity to go after any enterprise buyer in the Google Apps ecosystem.
What does the Google Apps ecosystem need to become an irrefutable force for the enterprise?
Google Apps itself is already a massive, disruptive force in the enterprise, with 50 million seats installed and customers like BBVA, Genentech, and The University of Texas at Austin (hook ‘em horns!). For the broader ecosystem around Google apps to have the same kind of impact, the companies that comprise it have to address enterprise requirements around scalability, reliability, auditability, and security. And you see that happening now.
Spanning is one of only a few ISV’s in the Google Apps ecosystem—and the only backup vendor—that has been found to be compliant with the SSAE 16 standard, which demonstrates to our customers that we have the proper controls in place to reliably and securely handle their data . We undergo rigorous third-party security scans and are certified against US and international privacy standards. We’re proud to be setting an example here, and encourage other participants in the Google Apps ecosystem to follow suit.
What’s human’s biggest shortcoming when it comes to server maintenance, backup and recovery?
I occasionally talk to people, even otherwise sophisticated IT people, who incorrectly assume that Google will just take care of it. To be clear, Google has fantastic disaster recovery capabilities, but those are for their disasters, not yours. If you accidentally delete something, or a rogue app on a mobile device corrupts something, or a disgruntled employee destroys something, that’s your disaster, not Google’s. And it’s your responsibility put systems in place to protect against those scenarios. Google can’t help you in those situations.
But the absolute worst thing is when you hear about someone who understands the issues and sets up a backup system—but without thoroughly testing and vetting it for things like SSAE 16 audits —and then, only after they’ve lost something and desperately need it back, discovers that their system’s restore function doesn’t work. Unfortunately, this happens to a lot of customers, and it’s not the fault of the customer. If you buy a backup-and-restore system you expect it to back up and restore. But not all apps are created equal, and you have to do your homework, even if it means learning what this audit and compliance stuff really means.
You were among the earliest to gain SSAE 16 certification in anticipation of increasing security concerns for the enterprise. What gives you confidence in the future?
Businesses are moving to the cloud in general and Google Apps is seeing a huge share of that growth. But corporate IT buyers understand that even after they’ve moved to the cloud they’re still responsible for protecting the integrity of their companies’ data. Moreover, they understand that the best way to do that is by backing it up to a trusted, audited third-party service. As the only provider of business-class backup for Google Apps, Spanning is well-positioned to meet that growing demand. But we’re not going to stop there.
As the market evolves and continues to shift towards the cloud, we’re going to be vigilant about upholding enterprise standards like the ones that protected businesses when they did most of their computing on-premise.
Whiteboard or chalkboard?
I love the smell of chalk in the morning. Smells like… victory.
Biggest achievement to date?
Convincing some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met to come work with me at Spanning.
Best advice for handling certification audits?
For companies like Spanning that maintain operational excellence, audits are a great way to document and communicate that to customers. For companies with less mature processes and controls, audits can be a good (albeit expensive) way to identify areas that need improvement. And for customers, audits (or a lack thereof) are a way to distinguish between these two types of companies.