Magazine article Information Management

ECM’s Move to the Cloud: Good News for Business, IG Pros

Magazine article Information Management

ECM’s Move to the Cloud: Good News for Business, IG Pros

Article excerpt

In 1995, events transpired that fundamentally changed the way businesses engaged in commerce: Amazon opened as the first online bookstore, and shortly after that eBay launched as an online auction house for goods. Internet business was here to stay. The emergence of the World Wide Web as a platform for engaging in commerce has made the greatest impact on business since assembly line manufacturing.

Follow that in 2007 with the launch of the Apple iPhone, the first commercially viable smartphone. The youth that were able to obtain these clever devices became especially obsessed users, and now, as many of them have entered the workforce, they are ushering in the next big fundamental business change - the "app" culture!

The app culture is defined as efficiency. Everything needed for personal or business needs is in the palm of the hand and a swipe or two away. The smartphone has ushered in more efficient code, software, and processes. To support and augment this efficiency, cloud-based computing has emerged and grown significantly.

Cloud Computing Models

Cloud computing, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines three models for cloud services:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - IaaS provides storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are the main IaaS vendors on the market.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) - PaaS provides the runtime environment, databases, development tools, and application program interfaces, and web/application servers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) - SaaS provides the applications, virtual machines, storage, and load balancing.

A simple explanation of these models is shown in Figure 1.

Cloud computing also offers three main deployment models:

1. Private Cloud - A private cloud system is operated only for a single organization. While it is hosted in the cloud, it is cordoned off for a single organization and may be managed by internal resources or a third party.

2. Public Cloud - A public cloud system is open for public use. Technical differences between public and private cloud may be the same, but security needs separate the two.

3.Hybrid Cloud - A hybrid cloud system uses the foundation of a private cloud, but integrates with public cloud services.

A simple explanation of these is in Figure 2.

The Present State of ECM

So, what does cloud computing have to do with enterprise content management (ECM)? Let's look at the present state and future of ECM, as well as its impact on information governance technology.

Since its inception, ECM has had noble goals, and organizations have tried to achieve those goals - the main one being to serve as a single platform for creating, processing, managing, securing, and governing unstruc- tured content (e.g., scanned documents, e-mail, word processing documents). Unfortunately, high implementation times and costs, the need to create dedicated teams to manage the applications, and ECM's lack of mobility have caused ECM to be more a departmental solution than an enterprise solution for most organizations.

Also, because these systems are deployed on-premises, requiring large infrastructure investments in hardware, databases, operating systems, backup protocols, security suites, and customizations, ECM has mostly been a tool for medium to large organizations. And those organizations have ended up with large infrastructures to support point, vertical solutions and have had to invest heavily to maintain these systems.

Often what is seen on-premises is a mixture of multiple ECM systems serving different department needs, enterprise resource planning systems, collaboration tools, and FTP applications for large file transfer - and all while trying to integrate with office productivity tools, as shown in Figure 3. …

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