Richard Schoen, Director of Document Management, HelpSystems
In today's world of cloud computing, companies are facing choices over whether to deploy document management solutions in the cloud, on premise or use hybrid solutions where both are used. This article will provide some insight on some of the important things to think about when choosing cloud vs premise based solutions for document management. The first thing to consider when choosing a solution is how confidential is the information you plan to place into the document management software.
If you are storing critical documents that contain password and other top secret corporate information, cloud based solutions may get ruled out right away because you want that information to stay within the corporate walls no matter what. By removing the potential for a cloud based breach of any kind, keeping documents safe is much easier so in this scenario a complete onsite scenario is the way to go.
For small to mid-sized organizations who want to share corporate documents but don't have the strict confidentiality issues, utilizing an entirely cloud-based solution for document management can be the right path. Documents can be scanned from a desktop scanner of MFP device, uploaded from a local directory or captured from an email inbox to the cloud based document management software. When using an entirely cloud based document management solution customers may want to make sure the cloud vendor offers an option to get regular offline backups of data to insure all of their documents and information aren't lost if the cloud service provider suddenly disappears or has an IT disaster or meltdown of their own. After all a cloud data center is similar to your own data center, only hopefully with better security, more robust hardware and system redundancy controls in place. Nevertheless a regular data backup from the vendor on DVD, tape or removable hard drive is an advisable option to insure data safety and business continuity in the event of an outage within your company or your cloud provider.
Another option might be a hybrid cloud solution where the application and information is stored in the cloud and backup copies of documents are regularly synced to local network storage for redundancy. This option combines the flexibility and access convenience of the cloud solution with the security of knowing that up-to-the-minute document storage is being synced in real-time to your local network where backups can then be made. The hybrid option is great way to handle cloud system redundancy if your vendor supports it.
Having access to documents from anywhere at any time is another potential benefit of running document management in the cloud. Most cloud provider sites are secured via an SSL connection to the site and then accessed via user id and password. Sometimes an SSL web site connection is not enough for security. You might recall the SSL security bugs discovered in 2014. When more security is needed often users must deal with the extra complexity of connecting to a VPN and then try to connect to the document management system to search for documents. This two stage connection exercise can make it more painful for road warriors who need access to corporate information, however having a VPN layer to a cloud provider or an internal network can also provide that extra layer of security of knowing that your documents aren't just out there publicly available to anyone who can hack their way into the web-based document management app
From the financial side, when choosing to deploy document management in the cloud, costs can often be treated as a monthly service expense rather than a capital purchase Because of being able to simply expense the costs, a department manager may get approval to go live with a cloud based document management solution without the need to go through the typical capital request and approval process. In many cases that means a go live in days rather than weeks or months for a new project. Being able to quickly turn on and off services as needed also provides added flexibility when new collaboration projects arise.
Many small and large businesses have small or non-existent IT staffs even though they may have lots of servers that need care and feeding. Often implementing document management requires lots of IT resources for a database server, application server and document storage thus making it almost impossible for small businesses to implement the technology at all because of incurring the costs of hiring IT staff, building a data center, purchasing server and storage hardware as well as backup devices. This is mitigated when deploying with a cloud solution because the cloud vendor provides the entire infrastructure needed to make things work as part of the monthly fees.
One other important thing to think about while determining whether to go with a cloud-based solution versus an onsite solution is whether you could do a little reverse osmosis on your IT planning and move the solution in-house later if you determine that your document management process needs to live behind the firewall in your data center.
Bottom line is that if you have adequate IT resources available you may want to keep your document management software in-house unless there's a business need to quickly turn on a new document management and collaboration solution and treat it as an expense item. If you need flexibility and don't have the appropriate resources available then a cloud based solution is definitely worth considering. As internet speeds and online storage costs continue to plummet a good dose of cloud computing can be just what the doctor ordered for your document management needs.