Defining Cloud Information Management (CIM) Systems

By Richard Porter-Roth posted 01-09-2012 14:30


Are you looking into cloud information management (CIM) systems and getting confused? Are social networking sites also document management sites? Is storing files in a cloud storage application collaboration or is it just a smart FTP site? What are the functional differences between cloud collaboration sites?

In order to define cloud-based service applications in terms of how they appear to be cloud collaboration applications, the following five types of applications are reviewed:

1. Simple storage and retrieval.This type of application offers the user the ability to store and retrieve files in a cloud-based storage area. It provides only basic functions, like login security, but does not offer any document management related functions such as version control, check in/out, workflow, etc. These sites may be called simple collaboration because you can share your site password with other users who can then upload or download documents.

Essentially, this is an easy to use cloud-based FTP-type site and can be considered basic file collaboration. For people who have no ability to freely share files within a company or from a company to people outside of the company, this works well, is very simple to set up and maintain, and is inexpensive (or free).

Just remember that once a password is shared, all participants can view, edit, delete and that there is, generally speaking, no individual folder/file security, no versioning of documents (once overwritten the original is gone), no auditing (who made that last change?), and no basic management controls.

Typically no IT is needed to operate the site.

2. Basic document management.This type of application offers the user content storage/retrieval as well as document management functionality such as the ability to create folders/subfolders, version control, check in/out, audit history, search, and other basic document management functions. This type of site allows the owner to assign security privileges such as edit or view only to users and security may be at the site, file folder, and document level. This type of site may be viewed as a light-weight document management system and may also offer integration with other applications via an API.

These sites are typically set up with standardized functions that are configurable by the owner but not customizable. For example, you may want an audit history of files for compliance purposes but if the site does not offer audit history, you can’t “customize” the site to have that function. Or if you want to “tag” folders/files with metadata to make them searchable, that may not be offered and you would not be able to search by metadata.

This type of site is easily set up, provisioned, and operated. It is built to be dead simple (hence the no customization), and will typically provide almost all of the functionality needed to do document collaboration. It should be considered an excellent value for the functionality offered.

Typically no IT is needed to operate the site but IT could provide such things as integrating company security applications, such as AD, into the site to facilitate group logins and permissioning.

3. Complex document management.This type of application offers all of the functions listed above and may also include the applications for content creation – these sites may include a word processor, spreadsheet creation, presentation creation, records management capabilities, a calendar function, an email function, more complex workflows, and other application functions that one would expect in a fully realized document management system. Once a user is logged into the site, everything needed for document creation and management is included and the user operates in a complete environment.

This type of site may also offer the ability to customize the site via scripts/programming in addition to integration with other applications via an API. But, because these sites are more complex, they are not as simple to operate as the first two types of sites.

IT is (typically) needed to set up and operate this type of site.

4. Functional applications with document storage.This type of application offers specific functional applications such as human resources (HR), enterprise resource planning (ERP), product management (PM), customer relationship management (CRM), and others. This type of application is built to provide the necessary functional requirements for the application, such as CRM, and may also provide the ability to upload documents into a storage area – typically related to a project or client account. However, these systems typically do not provide any document management capabilities – no version control, no check in/out, etc. They may provide simple workflows for the documents once they are associated with a project or a client’s file.

IT is not typically needed to set up and operate this type of site.

5. Social networking applications with document storage.This type of application offers the ability to provide social networking through establishing an individual home page, ability to tag or invite other users to your home page, the ability to establish communities of users, blogging, IM, etc. This type of applications may also offer the ability to store and share documents with other users but typically does not include any document management capabilities.

At its most basic operation, IT is not needed but when considering a company-wide implementation with cross departmental interactions, IT will be needed.

All of these sites do offer tremendous productivity to the user but there are potential issues for records management, governance, and compliance – not to mention files outside of the firewall and multiple internal applications/sites fragmenting a concerted document management strategy. While many of these types of sites do not require an IT presence, I suggest that IT be brought in to help review site security and to be aware of how the site is used and by whom.

Bud Porter-Roth

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