They say that in the light of recent scare stories about US intelligence monitoring, the successor to the KGB has ordered its spies to use manual typewriters again.

Quite an astonishing thought. While there are legitimate questions about PRISM, do we really want to go back to that unsafe, unwieldy and expensive storage medium of paper and carbon copy printing?

After all, centering processes around the physical item of paper ushered in onerous requirements around duplication, storage and retrieval that created significant and unnecessary burdens on business.

The traditional way of removing these burdens has been the electronic capture of a snapshot of these documents as they come into the organisation. By storing a document a central electronic filing cabinet, it is accessible to all relevant users through the company’s information systems.

That is very powerful. Now we have another possibility: cloud. Take-up of a cloud-based document management approach has gained increased momentum. And I agree that cloud has a legitimate place in document storage with its endless capacity. If you’re primarily concerned with robustness, directory structure and access control, it is a genuine step forward; and if portability, remote usage and document sharing (particularly with third parties) matter a lot to you, cloud is especially attractive.

The fact remains, however, that there are a number of challenges that lurk beneath the surface of all the cloud positives that can impact you, and which all CIOs needs to be aware of.

These are:

Where is my data held, and who has access to it? You need complete transparency from service providers on this front, cloud or not. Questions remain, meanwhile, on how to migrate such content to a cloud basis and support integration without compromising existing processes. A wholesale move is usually not practical; hence the growth in ‘hybrid’ systems, partly on-premise and partially in the cloud.

Insufficient bandwidth If all your critical applications are in the cloud and you have regular Internet outages or are in a geographically poorly served area, your choice is limited. The work-round here: choose your provider carefully, looking at their data centre network spread.

You’re dealing with very young companies An important point for CIOs looking at cloud is that many of the leading Cloud application providers are often very new businesses. That means there is a real risk of a “Dot Com 2” with some cloud contenders

There is clearly a balancing act in terms of Cloud’s risks and rewards to be achieved. While there are definite attractions to getting specific applications “straight from the cloud” to support fast growing businesses, it is likely that some aspects of your legacy information needs and investment commitments means you will need to look at various offerings to meet all requirements. Some things are going to be just too risky to outsource – and if your provider doesn’t offer a good disaster recovery plan, think again.

That’s why a pragmatic, balanced 21st century document management solution – some cloud, some in-house, maybe even some paper if it makes sense, on a business-case by business-case basis – is the best option for the majority us.

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About Howard Frear
Howard Frear has been at the forefront of major trends in the software industry for close to 18 years. He joined EASY SOFTWARE in 2001 and during that time he has been instrumental in developing and overseeing a highly successful strategic partnership with SAP, a relationship that today accounts for more than 50% of EASY UK’s software sales. Howard is also attributed with many of EASY’s largest customer wins including Serco Group, Cable & Wireless and Barclays Capital.
Howard Frear
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