Cloud-based enterprise content management (CECM) is still a toddler in the mature world of the legacy big boys, walking around without much stability but tons of potential. The future is bright for this one.
Naturally, there are still way more questions than answers with CECM, and I wanted to share with you some of the most common things that I deal with when discussing it in and around LincDoc. I'm also a daily end user of a ton of cloud systems, so I have addressed these concerns for internal projects, as well.
1. Security. You must have a detailed understanding of both your cloud and internal security models. For example, how do you currently manage groups and users? How do you handle files and secure access to information? Straight up migrating to a new system might not be a good fit for your security model, so understand whether you should explore things like "single sign on," for example. You should also consider things like forced SSL, which makes users establish a secure, encrypted connection for any sites you would access.
2. Cost. This is a pro and a con, since the cost to enter a cloud solution is almost always a fraction of going with an on-premise ECM solution. Most customers I speak with could convert entirely from a legacy ECM system into the cloud for less than one year of basic maintenance on existing systems. Some of the other costs to consider are conversion, end user training, and the ongoing subscription that you will be incurring to use a CECM system.
3. Reliability. In light of the recent Amazon outage, making sure your system has a redundancy plan and that you maintain local backups of information is crucial. But Amazon's stumble is a great lesson. For example, at LincWare we use Box.net and maintain synced local copies of all business critical files and documents. So even if we cannot access the cloud, we still have local data to use. Remember, even a guarantee of 99.9% uptime per month means 40 minutes of downtime in a given month. I suspect that 40 minutes is substantially lower than the planned and unplanned downtime for on-premise ECM systems, especially when you consider the general downtime of employees simply not using your software and any hardware problems. So yes, it still helps to speak to your provider about their infrastructure; and don't let them blow that off as if every data center in the world is protected by a phalanx of trigger-happy Decepticons. While rare today, the potential for data loss still exists.
4. Access to information. A critical question to ask your provider is "who owns the information?” If the answer is anyone but YOU, go on red alert. A real world example of this: your administrator forgets his password to a CECM account and thus, is locked out on a Saturday evening. His being home on a Saturday night crying about a computer system password aside, without vendor intervention, he might be locked out until Monday. Or, maybe you get sued for something and have to produce data from your cloud ECM account but can't retrieve the information. Can you work with your vendor to reproduce information if required? Present this scenario to your vendor. Leave out the Saturday night part. And give up on Internet dating.
5. Conversion of existing systems. The age of cloud computing and CECM is finally here and a lot of the people I talk with are looking to convert from their 199X, Windows 95 systems to something more modern. The workforce is changing as tablet devices and mobile tech alter both how and where people work. To accommodate these changes, converting to the cloud makes a lot of sense, allowing you to add it to your infrastructure where it fits. Some vendors, like Box.net, provide a bridge that connects systems like SharePoint and Documentum to the cloud—a blended approach to help with the conversion.
So cloud superstars, what issues to do you ponder around cloud-based content management? Are you a luddite/naysayer who still uses floppy disks? Or, are you the next Aaron Levie, who rumor has it doesn't even have hard drives in his computers?
*Disclaimer, LincWare is also a development partner of Box.net.