The advantages of the cloud are rich as a software delivery model, but the core functionality of many cloud platforms is still pretty anemic when compared to their on-premise counterparts—a deficiency that’s readily apparent in the area of enterprise document management software.
Consumer-oriented cloud file sharing services such as Dropbox, Box, and even Google Drive are trying to nudge their latest offerings towards an enterprise customer base, positioning their tools as a easy way for business users to share and collaborate on documents and files. While the relative simplicity and initial low cost of entry for these cloud-based file sharing services has a certain curb appeal, they don’t stack up in a deep dive, feature-to-feature comparison with traditional document management software platforms that have been built from the ground up to address enterprise-class functionality from security to business process efficiencies.
Many ECM customers, while interested in the cloud, still have major reservations about moving critical business documents to an environment they consider questionably secure. According to a study by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 41% of businesses surveyed said they saw the cloud in their future at some point within the next couple of years, but they still had considerable doubts, with 61% of respondents specifically citing concerns about security.
On-premise document management software remains the dominant deployment model for a variety of reasons, according to research by Gartner and Forrester. They found corporate users to be wary of making a switch to cloud-based systems because of existing infrastructure investments, growing compliance requirements, and on-going governance mandates, none of which are adequately addressed by the current crop of new offerings.
Here are five reasons why cloud file sharing platforms can’t touch document management software platforms from an enterprise functionality standpoint:
Security at all costs.
There’s an on-going debate over how secure or unsecure the cloud is, but the bottom line is that business customers can’t afford–nor do they want—a shred of ambiguity when it comes down to protecting critical information assets. Particularly for those highly-regulated industries like legal and financial, all the claims surrounding world-class data centers do little to drown out real concerns that call for for a layered security approach that starts at a base level of password protection and individual access rights to file encryption, audit trails, notifications, and image-level security.
Document storage and beyond.
Cloud file sharing services might be adept at basic file storage and retrieval, but they offer limited, if any, functionality in many of the areas that are the sweet spot for document management software. Specifically, traditional enterprise document management software systems have extensive, built-in automated workflow capabilities for routing documents and supporting key business processes, particularly in the areas of compliance and records retention. Moreover, support for capabilities like annotations and redactions, esignatures, integration with business line applications, sophisticated search across multiple databases, and the ability to view any file format without having the native application are other benefits of on-premise systems that aren’t universally supported by cloud-based file sharing solutions.
Not yet ready for primetime.
The cloud is still relatively in its infancy and so too are the products and the providers. Traditional ECM players are well-established veterans with stability and longevity in the market and their offerings have known reliability in terms of being able to hold up to enterprise demands. In contrast, online file sharing services have not yet demonstrated an ability to handle the requirements and scale required by corporate users.
What happens if the online file sharing service doesn’t work out as anticipated or the business need outstrips its capabilities? Not only is figuring out how to migrate all those documents a giant headache, but there are likely hidden costs related to such a migration. These costs are often not discussed or revealed at the onset of a subscription contract thus the customer doesn’t have a true picture of what’s at stake until they actually try to move a large database of files to another platform.
This is the Internet after all, thus there can be performance bottlenecks related to searching and retrieving documents, depending on a variety of issues, from available bandwidth to the number of users and geographic location. Because the Internet is also a streaming technology, enterprises can encounter problems trying to retrieve large numbers of documents with large image sizes—a limitation that doesn’t exist with on premise document management software.
The cloud may have many merits as a software delivery platform, but due diligence is required to evaluate whether an individual cloud service can touch the range of functionality offered by a traditional on-premise system. Easy to use and quick to deploy is no substitute for limited functionality–a factor many businesses are quickly discovering as they look under the covers of online file sharing services.
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