Since Microsoft helped brand software-as-a-service (SaaS) as "The Cloud" a few years ago, there's been a dramatic rise in interest around cloud document management software.
But what exactly is "cloud document management" and "true cloud" vs. on-premise software vs. "hosted cloud"? Is the cloud for everyone or are there reasons to avoid it? (Hint: there are.) This blog post answers some of these questions.
What Is Cloud Document Management?
Cloud document management is software that manages electronic documents that is located on the software vendor's server in a data center. The software vendor makes updates directly to it so that you have instant access to new features and upgrades without ever having to install software, upgrades or patches on a server or any user's computer. Access to cloud document management software is only available via mobile or computer browser and a secure internet connection. Users are typically charged by how much document storage is consumed by the gigabyte (GB).
"True cloud" is sometimes used to differentiate cloud document management software from when on-premise software is purchased by a vendor and hosted by a third party, which is also called "hosted cloud." In the latter, you access your documents over the internet (using VPN software), but you still purchase software and maintenance – you're just outsourcing the maintenance of the server and upgrading the software.
By comparison, on-premise document management software is purchased, typically in the form of concurrent licenses, and resides either on your server or is hosted by a third-party (hosted cloud). You pay annually for maintenance, and upgrades need to be performed on the server and on every user's computer.
When Does Cloud Document Management Make Sense?
From our experience with MetaStor, cloud document management software makes the most sense when you have many users, especially when they are remote and/or using mobile devices, and you need less than 1 terabyte (TB) of document storage. At this level, cloud document management is a modest monthly expense instead of a capital expenditure, is accessible anytime and anywhere, and there is no need to tax IT resources or to purchase software, hardware and annual maintenance contracts.
When Does On-Premise Document Management Make Sense?
From our experience with EMC ApplicationXtender, on-premise document management software makes the most sense when you have a small number of users that need access to a large number of electronic documents, typically more than 1 TB. This is common with medical records in hospitals. At this level, on-premise document management can actually be more cost-effective, particularly if the documents do not need to be accessed very often like legacy/historical records.
When Does Hybrid Document Management Make SenseA hybrid combination of document management software makes sense when you have many users that need access to electronic documents in order to process them efficiently, especially when they're using workflow automation software (a function of document management software). Based on the 80/20 rule, this is usually 20% or less of the total documents an organization needs to retain.
On-premise document management software is then useful to store the 80% of documents that are older than a few weeks or months and rarely need to be accessed. If the cloud is used to manage an increasing number of legacy documents, your monthly expense can well exceed the cost of software and maintenance at some point.
Thus, it's possible and smart to use a hybrid cloud and on-premise document management approach to get the best of both worlds. For industry old-timers, it's comparable to when you had document storage in the form of online (hard disk, RAID), near-line (CD/DVD/optical disk jukeboxes) and offline (any media stored outside of hardware).
Where Do You Go from Here?
If you're not sure about what's best for your organization, contact us. We can assess your current situation and identify the optimal combination of cloud and on-premise document management for your organization, including if there are better ways to ingest content and opportunities to automate workflows.