There is a lot of hype around 'cloud computing' and this month's theme at CMSWire is all things cloud, so maybe we will be able to figure out whether those clouds are stormy, rain filled, or basically sat at each end of a rainbow (with the associated pot of gold, of course…).
The Cloud as We Know It
Although the term 'cloud computing' has been around for a while describing Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, it is relatively new, and I bet most people think of Box.net when they think of cloud content management. However if you think about it, website hosting companies have been offering hosted web content management for a long time. Before Google docs there was SpringCM, and unlike some of the newer start ups (or up starts?) SpringCM markets itself as full ECM, not just cloud based content storage.
On the other hand, companies you may never have heard of, for example Symcor, have offered Line of Business specific services that include content management, in the form of images of scanned documents (such as cheques) for a long time. These niche companies have long understood the requirements of heavily regulated industries, such as encryption of data at rest on servers, and not just in transit over the wire, that the newcomers are now dealing with as they get more popular.
What Do You Want From the Cloud?
Now all is not gloom and doom -- as with everything in IT, not just content management, whether some type of solution can be made to work for you, depends on what you want in the first place. Salesforce.com would not be where it is today if it did not meet its customers’ requirements! However let's be clear, it does not currently meet all of the requirements of all of its customers, that is why it has just acquired one of its encryption and security partners.
So let’s go back to your requirements. Google Docs or Box.net might do fine, if you have good internet connectivity and bandwidth, are not too worried about heavy encryption, are satisfied by their service level agreements, integration features and APIs, and of course the small print of their terms and conditions, particularly where it comes to security and access. My company, by the way, is not okay with a lot of this, but we are a conservative financial institution, so we are at one extreme end of the spectrum. At the other end why wouldn't a small to medium business leveraging "Google Apps for my domain" be satisfied with Google Docs as their “document management” solution?