Content is moving into the cloud. This trend seems both undeniable and inevitable. As the amount of content we need to store and the length of time it must be retained both continue to grow, so do the options for managing and maintaining that content outside of the enterprise data center. Continually expanding the infrastructure to keep pace with an ever rising tide of content is a losing battle. Add to this the mobility factor with all the devices and users demanding seamless access to content on either side of the firewall. Continuing to keep all that content on-premise seems not only unnecessary, but unwise.
The cloud seems to present an appealing option for CIOs to reduce data center costs, but they are approaching it cautiously. Lingering concerns over security and compliance temper the enthusiasm IT leaders feel toward cloud-based solutions. In addition, the cost and complexity of integrating hosted solutions with legacy enterprise applications can quickly consume potential savings realized by eliminating servers and storage. Even so, the march to the cloud continues. It is just proceeding at a slower pace. Gartner projects that by 2016 most Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud. Enterprise Content Management vendors are pivoting their product roadmaps to respond. Within three years, at least 80% of ECM vendors will provide cloud service alternatives to their on-premise solutions.
Unfortunately, most information workers aren’t willing to wait. They have grown accustomed to storing all of their personal content, including music, video, pictures and documents, in the cloud and being able to access it from anywhere, at any time, from any device. Not only is it cheaper to store their content in the cloud, someone else takes care of system administration including backup and recovery. Perhaps most importantly, it is much easier to share your content from the cloud than it is from a server sitting in the hallway closet. The desire for this flexibility and economy has followed the consumer from their private life into their professional work. Much like the early days of social computing, staff are going around the IT department and adopting public, consumer oriented services and solutions in an ad-hoc manner.
This presents several problems for the IT department. First, consumer oriented solutions are not designed or intended for enterprise use. As a result, many of the concerns preventing full adoption of cloud-based content management are being introduced into the enterprise anyway. In addition, because these are unofficial solutions the infrastructure hasn’t been reduced so no cost savings are realized, other than perhaps some staff time that would otherwise be spent trying to access and share content.
Enterprise content is already moving to the cloud whether or not official policy and planning intend it to do so. While the initial motivation may have been cost savings, the actual driver is convenient and ubiquitous access to content. As a result, the conversations surrounding cloud-based content management need to shift. Rather than debating whether or not content should be moved to the cloud, the enterprise should be focused on what content should be moved to the cloud and how to manage the process of doing so.
I examine the ins and outs, do’s and don’ts, risks and rewards of cloud content management in the new Gartner for Technical Professionals document Content in the Cloud and will be speaking on the topic at the Gartner 2012 Symposium in Orlando. Hope to see you there.