Cloud content management will become an inevitable reality for most organizations within a handful of years, according to new research by the Association of Information and Image Management, based in Bethesda, Md.
"It's not a case of if, it's a case of when -- and actually, how soon," said Doug Miles, director of the market intelligence division at the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) and the author of its new Industry Watch report, Content in the Cloud -- Making the Right Decision.
According to the report, which was released last week, cloud content management practices will become the default model for organizations. The research predicts that the number of businesses using cloud and other Software as a Service (SaaS) applications for general IT technology deployments will jump from today's 7% to 41% in three years, then to 77% in six to eight years. But that shift might not happen without a few bumps along the way.
"IT department members are quite against it, though," Miles said, explaining that the survey results uncovered reluctance on the part of IT -- in particular, among records and compliance managers -- to provide cloud-based file-sharing and collaboration platforms to workers.
The biggest obstacle that survey respondents gave as inhibiting a move to the cloud is the perceived security risk (61%), followed by a lack of compliance standards.
Resistance leads to implementing consumer apps
Because of that resistance, the Industry Watch report explains, there's been widespread end-user adoption of consumer-grade, ungoverned file-sharing applications. In fact, 30% of survey respondents said they are seeing increasing use of unofficial cloud content management and SaaS-based file-sharing programs.
"The IT departments see the cloud as meaning there's less need for IT support, and I think many of them suspect it might lead to a change in their job descriptions," Miles said, indicating another possible reason for IT's reluctance. Shifting content management and other general IT applications to the cloud would mean "huge implications in IT departments," but IT would not go away because of system administration and other tasks, he said.
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IT isn't the only department to resist managing content in the cloud. Records managers and information managers are also hesitant because "A, records managers are, by nature, conservative; and B, they are probably quite right to be conservative because it's important to get [cloud content management] right," Miles said. "They see that the cloud is a bit of a Wild West, and worry their security protocols might likely go by the wayside."
But these security concerns are also a reason for grabbing cloud content management and other SaaS-based IT applications by the horns. The reality is that business users might already be implementing file-sharing programs and collaboration capabilities behind the backs of IT and other compliance departments. Doing so could introduce security and regulatory risks, creating a potential enterprise content management (ECM) nightmare. In the meantime, many business managers are almost turning a blind eye to the practice, Miles said.
"It's understandable why people are doing that," Miles said. "It satisfies a need on the business end." But instead of denying workers the ability to use cloud-based ECM applications, he said, companies should provide alternatives that satisfy the demand in an official way, go beyond the "freemium" model with its fewer controls for login and security, and make better and comprehensive use of the applications.
Security's bark is bigger than its bite
Cloud content management, the AIIM report said, is actually proving to be secure. According to respondents, only 4% have experienced incidents of data loss, security intrusion or long-term unavailability because of cloud or SaaS applications. Seventy percent said the applications have been trouble-free. While 26% said they experienced minor incidents, 37% consider the vulnerability of content and data in the cloud to be no higher than for on-premises applications.
"First of all, check out what you already might have with cloud extensions or cloud options," Miles said, as a first step toward moving content management to the cloud. "See what they offer in the way of cloud and SaaS offerings, and see what they offer in the way of security capabilities."
As a result of its study, AIIM recommends organizations create and maintain a directory of SaaS, cloud and other off-premises applications and record user-satisfaction levels, develop a cloud strategy that encompasses business user and IT concerns, set priorities around a phased approach, and evaluate and consider all viable options.
"Right now these systems are paid for by the credit card of a project manager, while they should be paid for by the IT side," Miles said, explaining that IT should take over system administration duties.
"Get a handle on it," Miles said. As organizations put cloud strategies in place, they should make sure they incorporate a strategy for information and records and management. "The sooner you do this, the less chance there is for making a mistake."
Jonathan Gourlay is site and news editor for SearchContentManagement.com. He manages editorial content production for the site, working with expert contributors as well as writing news and features. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.