Turn Weaknesses of the Cloud into Strengths

It wasn't long ago that CIOs balked at storing data in the cloud, citing the risks of data breaches, regulatory violations, higher costs or other show-stoppers.

Over time that view has changed, but perhaps less than you'd think.

In an instant poll of the audience members at yesterday's CMSWire webinar on Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategies, 73 percent of the participants said their companies limit or prohibit cloud-based document storage. Only 26 percent said they store high-value or high-risk documents in the cloud.

Old School


That's old school thinking, according to the webinar, titled "Information Security and Compliance in the Cloud." You can watch the entire presentation by clicking here or on the frame at the end of this story.

The webinar featured presentations by Rich Medina, co-founder and principal of the ECM consultancy Doculabs, and Chris Davidson, product marketing manager for M-Files, an ECM provider that sponsored the program. Together, they provided a roadmap for how to turn those early weaknesses into strengths.

"All of these started out as challenges with the cloud, but are now advantages. This is the case with other perceived risks as well, such as user functionality, accessing your content, service reliability and availability, and so on," Medina said. "They've all become strengths."

With a strong roadmap, he said companies can now mitigate concerns related to compliance, even while integrating third-party automated, repeatable processes that improve business performance. As for security, the "right vendors" typically have more resources dedicated to security than in-house IT organizations can provide.

Costs of storing data on the cloud are also lower when one considers the total cost of ownership (TCO) because there are lower capital expenses associated with hardware, software and infrastructure, he said. "You're paying predictable monthly costs, and you're saving on indirect costs like power and cooling," Medina added.

It may be a years-long journey for companies to make a smooth transition, but Medina offered a simply three-step plan for getting there.  First, he said, do a quick assessment of enterprise information management (EIM) factors like people, processes, technology and content. Also be sure to consider new systems of engagement, like social media, and the general baseline principles of EIM. Then consider which tool should be used.

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Choosing Partners

The second step is to identify opportunities within EIM. As Medina noted, vendors offer "radically different" approaches with a correspondingly wide range of risk and value. He offered six criteria to sort them out:

  1. Differentiate low-value/low- risk documents, like those on shared drives, from high-value/high- risk docs that face strict regulation.
  2. Look at internal vs. external factors. "Some documents you're just going to be using internally, inside the firewall. Some you're going to be sharing with external folks," he said. "Those are completely different scenarios."
  3. Ask if the documents will be shared. If they'll be shared with external folks, consider whether there is going to be a lot of collaboration back and forth across the firewall or not. Again, he said that leads to "a completely different set of requirements."
  4. Review the use of low- to high- value documents with respect to process management and system integration.
  5. Consider the workflow associated with low- to high- value documents.
  6. Adjust for the type of documents. Are they simple word docs, or do they involve CAD or other complex data?

Medina's third point of guidance was to take just one step at a time. "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast," he said. "Work in a methodical way. Identify your opportunities to go after first, and determine what that opportunity looks like under ideal conditions."

For example, accounts payable processes tend to be highly repeatable. They're used mostly in one department and they don't change frequently. However, other processes may involve a wide variety of document types with different levels of participation inside and outside the organization.

Fresh Approach

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Davidson explained that M-Files organizes documents in a non-traditional way that was also described in depth in a recent CMSWire story by David Roe.

Instead of storing content in folders where you must decide where it should go and how it should be named, M-Files defines each document by what it is and what it's related to. 

This leads to a more intuitive association that, in turn, makes it easier to find just the right document quickly. He compared the different approach to the way iPhones categorize music by genres and musicians.

"By connecting all of your data, managing every aspect of your business becomes easier because you're able to see how the project you're working on relates to specific documents," he said.



Title image by Alexander Lukatskiy / Shutterstock.