ECM & The Cloud: What You Should Know
Following my previous blog on how the turbulent ECM software market can affect job candidates, I received a lot of queries about the impact of mobile and cloud computing on ECM. The key benefits of cloud and mobile working are something that should already be on the radar of anyone who works with ECM, and employers are going to expect you to understand the benefits and risks of such a game-changing development.
Cloud computing and the ubiquity of mobile phones are often unhelpfully referred to as “industry disruptors”. This, to my mind, is entirely the wrong way for an ECM professional to look at things. To me, cloud computing is the perfect tool for ECM software, allowing flexibility, versatility, and cost-effectiveness in imaging, archiving, scanning, viewing, and every other facet of ECM suites. While the early days saw people dabbling in simple file sharing solutions like Google Drive, the key players in the ECM industry have quickly taken note and responded in force. Versatile cloud options are now integral to DocuShare, Oracle, FileNet, and virtually every other ECM suite on the market.
The obvious benefit to customer facing businesses is a simple matter of supply and demand. Clients and customers in 2017 expect content to be available to them whether they’re in the office or halfway around the world, and they expect to be able to access it on their mobile device. If a company’s working team can use ECM software wherever they are, at the drop of a hat, these demands will be much more easily met.
Beyond that, however, there are some internal benefits that can be very compelling for virtually any industry. Cloud storage through a commercial storage service, such as those offered by Microsoft and IBM, reduces or even removes the need for bulky internal servers, server maintenance staff, and constant upgrades. Instead, most suites offer a subscription service in which all those concerns are handled externally, cutting costs substantially.
For employees, the flexibility that cloud ECM can provide is a major benefit. With shared workspaces becoming the norm, and the increasing freedom to work from home, cloud-based ECM is becoming an essential productivity tool for companies that are breaking out of the traditional office mould.
With all these inherent benefits out of the way, it's time to discuss the elephant in the room. Moving away from physical hardware and into cloud-based data storage and retrieval is a security risk, plain and simple. It’s the key reason that businesses are reluctant to make the change.
Or is it?
Cloud computing is no longer in its infancy, and security protection measures are evolving to meet users' needs. Although it’s true that many software suites use shared servers, private clouds are becoming more popular with larger enterprises, who may otherwise shirk cloud storage in light of security scares. This means compromising on some of the benefits of course - a private cloud still needs an on-site private server and staff to maintain it – but for companies that already have private network architecture in place, this may be a small price for such flexible access.
In addition, good security in the cloud is as flexible as the cloud’s applications are, and any burden can be mitigated by implementing a hybrid cloud to a greater or lesser degree. In a hybrid cloud, more sensitive data is stored on a private server, while more routine data is stored on shared servers, typically operated by the company providing the ECM suite, with access restricted by a layer of security software.
In short, security isn’t the barrier to cloud computing that it once was, and this can be seen from some unexpected high profile converts. Most tellingly perhaps, courts and law firms have begun using cloud-based ECM suites to archive and share documents of the most sensitive nature – the High Court in London has been accepting electronic delivery of court bundles for the better part of a decade.
In light of all the benefits the cloud brings, security has proven to be a minor hurdle to overcome for cloud and mobile ECM, and it is bound to become ubiquitous very soon indeed. It’s a good idea for job candidates to prepare to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about it at interview because it’s fair to assume that your potential employer will already be on the bandwagon.
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