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Moving to the Cloud, One Process at a Time with Hybrid Clouds

I admit, when I first heard of hybrid clouds I was suspicious of the whole concept. The goal is to move everything you could to the cloud —  liberating IT from routine infrastructure worries and freeing the department to solve business problems for the business, not technical details. The organization benefits greatly when IT is left to focus on governance, process automation and productivity enhancements.

I asked myself, “Why would anyone go with a hybrid model?”

Why add another CMS to the portfolio if you cannot retire an old system or provide a large amount of obvious business value? How does having IT manage systems in the cloud in addition to their existing duties allow them to help the business more?

On the way to paradise, reality reared its ugly head. Most organizations are not ready to move everything to the cloud. Cloud applications may provide the functionality used by 80 percent of people, but that last 20 percent is mission critical to many power users. There is also the ever present question when discussing the retirement of a legacy CMS: migrations. Meanwhile, the desire from business to move at least some features to the cloud is becoming deafening.

The reality, as Microsoft is discovering, is that organizations are not ready to bet everything on the cloud. They want the features that having content in the cloud provides while maintaining the comfort and control of having their content on-premises. The concept of Hybrid clouds is gaining traction among IT professionals who want the benefits of the cloud without giving up the desire to have information controlled locally. Hybrid systems can provide the best of both worlds, but when properly executed, the hybrid approach allows organizations to gradually move to the cloud at their own pace without the current all or nothing approach.

What is a Hybrid Cloud?

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Hybrid cloud systems, or simply the hybrid cloud, are systems that allow for Content and Processes to exist on-premises, in the cloud or both. Content may or may not reside in the cloud, depending on the architecture and the preferences of the organization. The key characteristic is the synchronization of desired content and processes between the two systems with full control remaining with the on-premises system.

Most organizations have content that they either need or do not care if it is in the cloud. Typically amounting to about 20 percent of their content, this involves content that is being shared with external parties or with remote workers who need a quick way to access content without a VPN.

On the other side of the coin, organizations have no desire to let 20 percent of content ever leave their corporate data systems. This includes proprietary research, financial information and employee records. This isn’t a security concern, but a governance concern. Proper controls need to be placed on the content to insure that it is handled as regulations and laws dictate.

The remaining 60 percent is usually a mixed bag, depending on the organization. A level of control is desired, but having it stored in the cloud or on-premises is more of an organizational preference than a necessity. More conservative organizations tend to lean towards keeping content on-premises while younger or more forward leaning organizations are eager to start taking advantage of the cloud.

For Example?

In consulting, collaborating on proposals with partners is a way of life. The different companies have to find a way to work together to get all of the work done. Quite often, email is used. Sometimes a company opens their firewall to allow everyone to collaborate using their internal system. The volume of VPN software and connections has driven more than one IT support person crazy.

Hybrid cloud would work well in this scenario. The proposal lead could create an internal proposal site. They would then share the request for proposal (RFP), proposal content and meeting notes in the cloud. Formal review processes could be defined to insure that all the relevant internal and external people approve the final proposal. Once the proposal is submitted, all the content could be pulled back into the on-premises site and placed under the proper governance. If the proposal wins, the RFP and proposal could be synched back to the cloud into the site for the project.

The hybrid approach could be taken a step further by storing the content separately on-premises. The application would serve as the Software as a Service (SaaS) component while the content itself would remain home. This would be of benefit to regulated industries or regions that did not want their information stored outside of a given data center or geography.

Having the Cloud Your Way

Proposals are just one example. Contracts, event planning and employee onboarding are just some more quick examples. They all have external participants, have content that needs proper governance and currently spend too much time in email.

If the cloud only vendors had more features around Records Management and Process Automation, it would be hard to justify keeping everything on-premises. Since they do not, the decisions are harder.

Over time, the capabilities of the cloud vendors will increase as they evolve and new vendors establish a base in the cloud. Until then, the hybrid is not just an option to consider, it is an important reality.

About the Author

Laurence Hart is the content management strategist at Alfresco. Laurence works with organizations to help them evaluate their strategy as it relates to their Content Management efforts, bringing two decades of experience solving the various challenges implementing content solutions.

 
 
 
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