Giving Subscribers Control Over Their Data

As software-as-a-service (SaaS) adoption grows, subscribers are increasingly concerned about retaining control over their data stored in cloud platforms. Vendors have a responsibility to provide robust data access, backup, and export capabilities. This article explores how SaaS providers can leverage APIs and webhooks to empower subscribers with data portability. These technologies enable users to securely access, move, and analyze their data on demand. The article makes the case that data control should become an industry norm. It provides examples of API implementation and additional options like scheduled exports, read-only access, and data standards. SaaS providers that prioritize subscriber data empowerment through strong data portability stand to build trust, loyalty, and a competitive advantage. By giving users control, vendors demonstrate accountable data stewardship. In summary, this article is a call to action for the SaaS industry to go beyond basic APIs and provide subscribers diverse tools to own, safeguard, and utilize their data. Companies that embrace this shift will reap the benefits of confident, satisfied users.

Giving Users Control Over Their Data

Giving Users Control Over Their Data

A small article how SaaS vendors can provide data export and backup options for subscribers using APIs, Webhooks and a few other options:

As software-as-a-service (SaaS) becomes more prevalent, subscribers are rightfully concerned about what happens to their data stored in these cloud applications. Vendors have a responsibility to provide options for subscribers to securely access and export their data on demand. APIs and Webhooks are two technologies that can empower subscribers with more control over their SaaS data.

The Need for Data Portability

When adopting a new SaaS tool, subscribers put a lot of sensitive information into that system – customer data, financial records, strategic plans, and more. But there is always a risk that the vendor goes out of business, loses data in a disaster, discontinues features, or makes unwanted changes. Subscribers can feel locked-in without options to leave with their data intact.

Having the ability to export a copy of their data gives subscribers peace of mind and more power in the relationship. But SaaS platforms don’t always make it easy to get data out. The ability to fully backup and restore data is key for accountable data stewardship.

APIs Enable Structured Data Access

Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow software to access and exchange data in a structured way. SaaS vendors should provide developer APIs for programmatic data export so that subscribers can build custom integrations.

With an API, subscribers can query data from the SaaS system and ingest it into their own databases and data warehouses. APIs can output data in standardized formats like JSON or XML for portability. Role-based permissions can restrict data visibility as needed.

Webhooks Notify of Data Changes

Webhooks take data portability a step further by automatically notifying subscribers whenever data changes. With a webhook, the SaaS app sends an HTTP request to the subscriber’s designated endpoint URL whenever triggered by specific events like creating a new record.

The subscriber can then use that real-time notification to instantly take a copy of the updated data via API. This creates a backup that is continuously in sync with the source SaaS system.

Empower Subscribers with Data Access

By providing API and webhook capabilities, SaaS vendors enable subscribers to securely backup their data, migrate between systems, and analyze it with other tools. This gives more control to the party who should rightfully own the data – the subscriber.

Other Options

Here are some other options SaaS vendors could provide to address the concerns around data portability and backups raised in that example:

  • Offline access - For web apps, providing an option for users to access and view their data offline such as through offline downloadable access. It helps to allows access and download if service goes down.

  • Export functionality - Having an easy way to export all data in a standardized format like CSV or XML from within the app's admin dashboard. This puts the onus on the user to download backups, but makes it possible.

  • Scheduled data dumps - Allow users to schedule regular automated data exports to be sent to an email or external endpoint. Takes the manual work out of regular backups.

  • Read-only API access - An API to allow read-only access to data for backup purposes, even if the app doesn't have a full API for other integration capabilities.

  • Data import services (into other tools) - Building import tools to allow users to easily migrate data from other apps into the platform. Allows switching tools without data loss.

  • Interoperability standards - Adopting common data formats and protocols like CalDAV for calendar apps or SCORM for LMS platforms. Standardizes data portability across vendors.

  • Data escrow services - Using third-party escrow services to hold encrypted backups of user data, released to users if vendor goes under. Adds assurance but with subscription cost.

  • Open source options - Providing open source versions of the app for self-hosting where users fully control the data but lose the SaaS advantages.


SaaS tools hold subscribers’ data, but well-designed APIs and webhooks give control back to subscribers. These technologies demonstrate a vendor's commitment to data transparency and build subscriber trust.

Offering robust data portability should become an industry standard across all SaaS platforms. Clients deserve the flexibility to easily analyze, backup, and migrate their data if desired.

Vendors must go beyond basic API access alone. Providing a range of export options, integrations, and backups puts power where it belongs - with the subscribers who own the data.

By prioritizing these capabilities, SaaS providers show they are allies rather than adversaries in the data journey. Companies that empower subscribers with data control will earn loyalty and establish a competitive edge.