Information management delivered via the Cloud, or Software as a Service is a great opportunity for many businesses, regardless of size, industry or location. There are scores of cloud solutions for document management, which have matured a great deal over the past several years; however there are still varying opinions whether public, or even private Cloud solutions will ever effectively replace on premise solutions. In many cases, hybrid file management solutions are the most viable option for medium to large enterprise companies.

Throughout this article, we’ll provide some perspective on Cloud and On Premise document control solutions by covering the following topics:

What is ECM?
On Premise Model vs SaaS Model
What Are the Differences between SaaS and On Premise for Document Management?
Why Choose When You Can Go Hybrid!?
ECM Vendors Review
Alfresco
OpenText
Microsoft SharePoint

[wpanchor id=”#ecm”]What Is ECM?

For experienced individuals, you may want to skip this section.

Enterprise Content Management, or ECM, is defined by the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) as “…the strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.

There are many Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premise solutions for unstructured content including web content management, document imaging, and e-mail management. In this article, we’ll focus on document management, which has traditionally been a core function of many ECM solution suites. For many years, Enterprise Content Management vendors provided on premise software solutions for functions such as:

  • Document storage
  • Version Control
  • Workflow
  • Access control by location, department, or employee
  • Organization of related documents by project, case file, or clients
  • Secure collaborative sharing of files,
  • Facilitating holds for legal purposes and other Records Management practices
  • Integrations to line of business solutions and other systems

These needs are still present in today’s ECM world; however there is now a desire by many businesses to solve these needs with a cloud solution.

[wpanchor id=”#onpremise”]On Premise Model vs. SaaS Model

First we need to be clear on what we mean by SaaS and On Premise. Here are a few highlights on each model.

On Premise Model

  • Infrastructure – You need to have servers that you manage to host the software
  • Upfront Licensing Costs – You need to purchase the software up front and then typically pay a recurring maintenance fee
  • IT Staff – You need to support both the infrastructure (patching, up time, etc.) as well as the software itself
  • Highly Customizable – You have full control of the system. Add-ons, custom code/services, and expansion is all up to you
  • Secure – You own the servers, the software and the data

SaaS Model

  • Low Cost to Entry – Typically you’re paying a monthly per user license cost perpetually
  • Reduced IT Staff and Infrastructure – Though you typically still need someone to administer the ECM system, you don’t need server and software patching or any other infrastructure support
  • Security and High Availability – Because your typically in a multi-tenant environment, the vendor is able to provide you with features like high availability and additional security checks that wouldn’t be cost effective to implement on premise
  • Low Customization  – You’re only able to customize what the vendor allows you access to, which is always less than what you’d have available in an on premise installation

[wpanchor id=”#saas”]What Are the Differences between SaaS and On Premise for Document Management?

Many Cloud based solutions, such as Microsoft SharePoint Online, Alfresco Cloud and other competitive solutions have many of the on premise document management features, either “out of the box” or with complementary, add on modules. You could say Open Text’s Tempo Content Box also has these functions, though it is more of a Hybrid Cloud solution as an extension of Content Suite (see the next section on Hybrid).

Many of these Cloud applications are highly dependent on document control for contracts, invoices, purchase orders and other files. For example, Alfresco in the Cloud offers advanced integration with Salesforce.com. SharePoint Online as part of Office 365 integrates with Dynamics CRM Online. Open Text provides Tempo Box solutions for SAP.

In many cases, it seems the most viable Cloud based Document Management solutions are those which complement other business functions, and can provide these files in context with the business processes they are related to.

There are many circumstances where an entirely Cloud based Document Management strategy might be a good strategy for your company. An  AIIM Survey showed 47 percent of companies who responded manage their documents entirely in the cloud.

Customer scenarios which are typical for cloud-only document control solutions include:

  • Small business with limited needs for permission controls, simple workflow requirements
  • Limited IT Management resources
  • Formal Records Management governance requirements are not a high priority for certain departments
  • e-mails or ERP applications are the focus of Records Management audits

Security, Business Continuity and BYOD Readiness

Many professionals have talked a lot about the risk of having your data in the cloud, yet they have been less vocal about reduced risk in the cloud. Storing valuable documents entirely on premise can become a risk should your server go down, there be a security breach or a natural disaster of some sort. The security measures, both physical and electronic, in data centers run by Microsoft, Open Text and Alfresco are the industry standard. Individual businesses, outside the technology space often are targets because they don’t have the safeguards and backup systems in place that cloud vendors do.

If you have employees who work from home, use mobile devices, or prefer to use Macs, Linux systems or tablets to access information, Cloud apps for Office 365, Tempo Box and Alfresco are available to facilitate access across multiple devices.

Should employees need remote access due to weather, natural disaster or other unexpected event, Cloud or hybrid solutions can eliminate the need for VPNs, and reduce your overall IT capital spend for all the reasons identified here.

[wpanchor id=”#hybrid”]Why Choose When You Can Go Hybrid!

In most cases that we see, companies are adopting hybrid cloud and on premise strategies for managing documents, often to accommodate integration with other business applications, or Records Management repositories. In others, it is for optimum use of networks and for distribution of information assets to where they need to be accessed. General Networks can help ensure your network is optimized to deliver that information to those who need it most.

As Cloud storage is becoming less expensive, companies are electing to decommission shared drives and other local storage. Document Management solutions have become seamlessly integrated with other business applications such as

  • Outlook e-mail, Gmail or Lotus Notes
  • Intranets, extranets, and public facing portals, based on document/folder permissions
  • CRM/ERP/Invoicing solutions
  • Digital/Content Marketing solutions

Cloud based solutions tend to have more interoperability, either by way of application program interfaces or other customizations or web services integrations solutions like Zapier. For documents and records which require more scrutiny, don’t have the need to be publicly accessed or available for access via mobile devices, some libraries can be provisioned on-premise.

Instead of an all cloud or entirely on premise document strategy, General Networks can help you determine which of your information assets should be made available on each. In some scenarios, businesses have synced some documents to both environments for as long as it makes good business sense to do so. For companies who have archiving requirements, vendors like Open Text, Alfresco and Microsoft have cloud environments which reduce the cost of archiving files as opposed to storing them in house.

For globally dispersed organizations, hybrid document management deployments can help to reduce network latency, or accessing large documents from satellite offices. Syncing documents take place at off peak network times.

The Hybrid option can definitely come at a much higher cost, but until SaaS offerings can offer all the flexibility of an on premise solution, hybrid will continue to be the right choice for many businesses.

[wpanchor id=”#vendor”]ECM Vendors Review

Competitive offerings such as Box, DropBox and Google Drive are purely SaaS solutions, and are seen, for the most part as file storage only solutions. For this article let’s take a closer look at the Cloud, Hybrid and On Premise Document Management solutions offered by Alfresco, Open Text and Microsoft. These vendors offer highly customizable document management solutions that go well beyond simple file storage.

[wpanchor id=”#alfresco”]Alfresco One and Alfresco Cloud Edition

Founded in 2005, Alfresco started in the Document Management space, before branching out into Web Content Management (WCM). Founded by former Documentum, Oracle, and Business Objects executives, they had a firm foundation in the Enterprise Content Management space. It is seen as a visionary in the ECM and “Enterprise File Synchronization & Sharing” or EFSS spaces by Gartner.

Alfresco says: “Alfresco One is the only true hybrid ECM solution, combining the best of on-premise or private cloud deployments with the flexibility of the public cloud”.

Companies can elect to adopt only Alfresco Cloud Edition, however Records Management functionality cannot be added on to the Cloud offering. Alfresco One is offered either as a Departmental or Enterprise Edition, depending on whether your business has a need for high availability, and also based on user volume tiers.

Alfresco Cloud is offered in Standard or Enterprise Network versions, primarily differentiated based on storage and user volume requirements.

Alfresco offers hybrid deployment options to serve functions like Records Management, both as a standalone ECM solution and to complement ISV partner solutions for companies like Salesforce.com and other business applications.

General Networks can consult with your business to determine the right deployment, integration and adoption strategy for Alfresco One is best for your needs. There are considerations pertaining to

  • Which business functions are best delivered via the Cloud vs. On Premise
  • Mobile device access of your company’s documents in respect to permissions and IT oversight
  • Security and encryption for documents should devices get lost, stolen, or to prevent from Wi-Fi environment hacking
  • Considerations of syncing Cloud and on-premise, workflow and capture of physical documents

[wpanchor id=”#opentext”]Open Text Content Suite and Tempo Box

Open Text has been a recognized leader in the Document and Records Management space for many years and was founded in 1991. It has grown both organically and through many acquisitions of companies like Hummingbird, Vignette, Captaris and Global360.

Until the release of Tempo Box a few years ago, Open Text Content Suite has only been available as an on premise, or Application Service Provider (ASP) solution, primarily only through Open Text itself. Many of the core Document Management functions are available with Tempo Box (such as document sharing, foldering, and workflow). Open Text provides a private, hybrid Cloud solution.  Tempo Box is often bundled as a “vehicle” to add value to other Open Text Solutions such as Content Suite, Extended ECM for SAP, though it is available as standalone (Express) or Cloud solutions too.

Tempo Box provides clients who use Open Text Content Suite, or simply Tempo Box with features such as:

  • Secure file sharing, mobile access and sync
  • Preserving compliance integrity of documents in terms of permissions and versions
  • Offline access
  • Integration with Open Text partner solutions such as Extended ECM for SAP

Similar to Alfresco, to provision Records Management functionality, the On-Premise Content Suite solution is required.

General Networks can advise your company whether Open Text On-Premise, Hybrid or SaaS- only solution is the best fit for your company. In some cases, certain departments might suit an entirely on premise solution, or entirely Cloud based. The Cloud provides Content Suite with document accessibility, and employee productivity options which never existed before the availability of Tempo Box.

[wpanchor id=”#sharepoint”]Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint Server

Microsoft SharePoint Server has been available since 2001, and has served a variety of business functions such as:

  • Collaboration
  • Document Management, website content management
  • Portals
  • Workflow and Business Solutions when coupled with add-on or ISV solutions

Office 365 has bundled a Software as a Service, full featured version of SharePoint, which can be deployed as a complementary extension to SharePoint 2013 on-premise. About 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint, and 83 percent of companies who use SharePoint rely on it for document management. Microsoft provides a secure, high availability Cloud solution for Office 365 including SharePoint Online. With the complementary modules which make up Office 365 including e-mail, Office productivity applications, and Business Intelligence.

On-premise versions of SharePoint can be extended with server-side add ons from Microsoft ISV partners, including Open Text, Alfresco, Kofax, and AvePoint. SharePoint Online can be extended by ISV add-ons as well, which are often plug-and-play, free, or offered at extremely low per user subscription costs.

In terms of business value, Microsoft SharePoint, both Online and on-premise integrate with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM and other ERP offerings. Alfresco and Open Text offer solutions which, instead of displacing SharePoint repositories, complement them. There are a number of ISV offerings in the market which can integrate Office 365 with other ERP solutions such as SAP. Office 365 including SharePoint Online can serve a solopreneur, and is used by large enterprise public sector and private sector enterprise organizations.  It is a highly scalable SaaS solution.

Are you looking for assistance on determining whether deploying SharePoint entirely on-premise, hybrid along with Office 365, or Office 365 throughout your company makes the most sense? General Networks’ SharePoint experts can help you select the best approach which will fit within your IT and information management environment.

Where to Go From Here

Taking into consideration your existing document management environment, your existing related business data management systems, and your business goals are all elements General Networks considers when recommending a strategy for Cloud and/or on-premise solutions and migrations from existing systems.

Should you be interested in finding out about some of the clients we have worked with, or be interested in finding out about factors which determine success or failure of ECM projects, we would be happy to meet with you and your colleagues.

Contact General Networks soon. Let’s talk about your unstructured content management needs, and how to get the best value out of your information today, and ensure you have future-proof solutions. It is usually not a black or white solution whether cloud or on-premise is the best solution. Hybrid solutions usually are the ideal set up for businesses with significant file sharing and enterprise content management requirements.

The General Networks leadership team and our extended organization in California have developed a wealth of experience in solutions from our partners including Microsoft, Open Text and Alfresco.