It’s 2012 – Prepare for the Cloud!

By Richard Porter-Roth posted 01-03-2012 20:18


Is 2012 the year to start thinking about moving part or all ECM functions into the cloud? I know the word “cloud” is beginning to (has?) be overexposed but nevertheless, cloud technologies offer great solutions today and even better solutions on the horizon. There are many cloud information management (CIM) systems that provide everything from simple storage to complete content management systems  and it is probable that people in your company are already using CIM systems or other cloud applications for ERP, CRM, PM, calendaring, and of course, social networking.

So, make 2012 the year to prepare for and start using cloud information management systems. Below are five key areas and suggestions to help you get started.

  1. Establish a Pilot System. Depending on your company size and type of business, cloud information management (CIM) systems everything from single departmental functional solutions to corporate-wide solutions. The key is to start small with one departmental group and grow that success before moving to another function or department. Pick a group of people that need to intensely collaborate with documents and other file types such as spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, etc. This allows you to try out a CIM application and understand what it can and cannot do – what you like, what you don’t like, and what you would like. Let the group have access to and use a CIM system for a designed period of time – have them write a report on their experiences and make that report the template for future applications. If your users are involved and happy with the CIM system they will spread the word (see #5 below).
  2. Plan for Security. Simply put, security is most likely better in a cloud application than it is at your office but many people have a difficult time believing that cloud security is up to the task. Passwords can be applied to both folders and files, strong passwords can be enforced, users can be designated as view or edit – in other words, CIM security is equal to your security in most cases. Many CIM systems encrypt the data on their servers and the data is encrypted during transit (uploads/downloads). Most CIM companies maintain SAS-70 certification at both their headquarters and their data centers – is your office and branch offices SAS-70 certified? Most CIM companies have real time backup and often have redundant backup sites – is your data backed up in real time to redundant servers? As part of your due diligence, make a list of all your current security policies and procedures and talk with your CIM provider, or several, and find out if there are any deltas between your security procedures and the CIM provider capabilities.
  3. Plan for migration. Any size business from small to large will have a legacy of data and content that may need to be migrated to the CIM system. Currently (early 2012), many CIM companies do not have any programmatic migration methods and you may be faced with a manual migration of large numbers of folders/files/documents. If you have a shared drive with an extensive folder/subfolder/subfolder/etc. listing, it may be problematic to easily migrate that listing into a CIM system.  If you have other systems, like FileNet, Documentum and Documentum eRoom, Lotus Notes, and other “legacy” systems, plan to document what you need to migrate and review this with your CIM provider. Note: there are vendors who provide migration programs and services but these are generally from XXX legacy system to SharePoint. If your CIM is SharePoint, search for SharePoint migration services. Make content migration one of your primary operational areas to review.
  4. The Role of IT. Many, or most, CIM services are available as free downloads with paid upgrades or you can start with a paid account. Pricing is typically on a per users basis or a “group” deal that you negotiate with the CIM provider. Because of the ease of sign up, self-provisioning applications, ability of the user to add people to the site, and manage the account…IT is often left out of the process and for many companies, IT may not even know that a “user” has a CIM site. While the attraction of these CIM applications is the user friendliness and support, IT is also needed to ensure site security, logon authentication with existing security (for example if your company uses AD), and linking to in-house systems or to other cloud-based applications. You many also want to have IT review the contract and SLA of potential CIM companies.
  5. Governance – Is Loosely Defined.  There are probably as many definitions of governance as there are companies and consultants – the point is that governance is what your company makes it to be and each company will be different. The potential issue with CIM systems is that they make it so darn easy to set up a site and share information that quite often the horse is out of the barn before anyone knows it. To wit, any person within a company can sign up for a free CIM system and start sharing information with anyone that has an email address – and this can be done without any corporate knowledge or approval. All companies today should begin learning about cloud-based applications; begin having a company-wide dialogue about cloud computing; and begin to establish some basic governance around who can provision a site, who can use it, what it can be used for, and who should be involved in the decision-making process. And, all the other usual suspects – such as security, compliance, records management, and legal should be included in the discussion.

It will be an interesting year for cloud technology and what direction major legacy application providers will take. My thought is that the major ECM providers will (and some already have) begin to offer more cloud-based services. CIM providers will continue to build new functionality into their product. My un-technically based opinion is that legacy systems will lag in web-based functionality and CIM systems will increasingly become the “modern collaboration” frontend to your legacy systems. Eventually companies will find it is not economically feasible to support both systems and work will shift more and more to the CIM system.

Join me and on January 18 for the AIIM Wednesday webinar: Cloud Collaboration Strategies and Technologies. Register today:

Bud Porter-Roth

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