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Enterprise Content Management to See Big Growth by 2018

As more organizations shift operations to cloud services like Managed AWS, businesses are waiting to see what the next big thing is. According to a recent report released by Technavio, one area of major growth will be SaaS-based Enterprise Content Management (ECM).

As more organizations seek to streamline operations, cloud-based content management solutions have become an increasingly attractive alternative. When these solutions are deployed on an enterprise level, large-scale document management is possible, preventing duplicate efforts and providing enhanced version control.

On-Premise Shrinking

According to the report, on-premise ECM held a 90 percent market share last year, but that share is rapidly shrinking. Businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits of moving ECM to the cloud, although the process is gradual. As a business’s equipment ages, instead of replacing it, many organizations are choosing to contract with a cloud service providers.

In the report, Technavio predicted a 31.1 percent annual growth rate between 2013 and 2018. The increase will be driven by businesses’ need to save money while also improving data accessibility. A SaaS-based ECM means documents can be accessed from anywhere, using the mobile devices that are becoming so popular for business use.

Benefits of the Cloud

The report mentions the growing awareness of the many benefits of relying on cloud providers for data storage and manipulation. By turning enterprise software operations over to a cloud provider, professionals can focus on business functions while allow trained technology experts handle IT operations.

In a SaaS environment, businesses pay only for the space they use, allowing for cost savings in the early phases of development. Many of these solutions are scalable, with plans increasing as an organization’s data use and storage grows.

To arrive at its conclusions, Technavio conducted extensive research into trends and market drivers in business today. The survey results were based on ratings on a number of criteria, including buying criteria.

Calculate Your IT Costs and Savings, Now!

Information technology is a part of any business’s budget, but do you know how to set an IT budget? Sure, you know you have to set money aside for computers and software, but how do you know how much? We’ve included a handy calculator to help you determine just how much you’ll save by making technology changes within your organization. Here are a few categories where you can plug in some numbers and see significant savings.

SaaS vs. On-Premise Software

If you’re using software that still requires an installation, you’ll occasionally face new charges. By switching from boxed software to a Software as a Service (SaaS) option, you can ensure your organization always has the latest version of the applications you need to remain competitive. A full on-premise version of Microsoft Office 2013 will cost $399.99 and will be outdated when Office 16 debuts within the next year. Office 365, which will be updated to Office 16 upon release, starts at $5 per user per month. Plug these numbers into the calculator and determine how much your business can save by switching your on-premise software to cloud versions.

Cloud Hosting vs. On-Premise Servers

If your SMB still has on-premise servers, you’re likely dealing with the constant need to upgrade software and replace equipment. Added to this is the burden of ensuring data backups are generated and safely stored and you can probably factor in several major expenses. Over time, servers, tape drives, uninterruptible power supplies, and air conditioning units must be replaced, which can be quite costly. By moving to a cloud hosting provider, you can pay a monthly fee to have all of these tasks handled for you. Compare the cost you’ll pay for your on-site IT infrastructure with what a cloud hosting provider will offer and, over time, you’ll likely see a significant cost savings.

Outsourced Support vs. On-Premise Staff

Talented information technology workers are both expensive and difficult to find. Once hired, an SMB usually has to pay benefits and salary to these employees, whether a business has a full-time need for them or not. By outsourcing technical support, SMBs can access a skill level they might not be able to afford on their own, while also saving money by only paying for the support volume they’ll use.

This handy cost savings calculator can help you plug in the different areas where you can save money, freeing up your budget for other areas. By weighing different cloud options against your on-premise costs, you’ll be able to determine whether a move to the cloud is the right choice for you.

Cloud Redefines Outsourcing in Multiple Industries

The stigma once attached to outsourcing is quickly fading as businesses realize there are many ways to send work offsite. Thanks to the growing popularity of cloud hosting, businesses are discovering that certain tasks can be completed by contractors and service providers directly from an online account. Third-party providers can log into the site and view and complete work without being able to access sensitive company information.

Outsourcing Transactional Tasks

As automation and outsourcing has replaced certain jobs, professionals are shifting attention toward higher-level tasks such as strategy and management. After obtaining a college degree and/or years of experience in a field, an employee is unlikely to be interested in a job that requires sorting through pages of data to find one item. These tasks can easily be sent to the cloud to be handled by an offsite employee.

Helping with the transition is that it is gradual. Large staffs aren’t being replaced by outsourcing. Instead, individual mundane work is being outsourced as current employees simply become too busy to handle them. This allows staff members to turn their attention to higher-level tasks, which pushes a business in the direction it needs to go to grow.

Software as a Service

Part of the outsourcing trend can be traced back to the growing popularity of Software as a Service (SaaS), which allows tasks such as HR and database development to be automated. Once automated, employees can serve in an administrator capacity, reviewing information and issuing approvals as needed.

The cloud has made it easier than ever for businesses to send tasks offsite. The many collaboration tools available today allow businesses to work together on projects in the same place, allowing for streamlined management of both onsite and offsite workers. This helps businesses save money without losing the team mentality that makes their organization strong.

IaaS vs. PaaS: Why the Debate Matters to You

Some say Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the next big thing, while others argue Platform as a Service (PaaS) is emerging as the front runner. Meanwhile, the average consumer still has no idea what either of those things are.

Widespread Impact

But for anyone who works, uses a cloud-based service, or purchases a cloud-connected device like a home alarm system, the debate matters. The cloud hosting providers that house these systems in their data centers are certainly paying attention, with the results of the debate dramatically impacting their business models.

The difference, put simply, is this. With IaaS, the vendor offers a business a place to safely store its server data and the applications it houses. With PaaS, network storage is provided, as well as a platform for developing applications. For the average consumer, this likely won’t have ramifications to their day-to-day lives, but as the industry eventually settles into its eventual structure, the breakdown of IaaS, PaaS, and Software as a Service (SaaS) will likely have an impact on cost.

PaaS Absorption

Some experts now assert that PaaS is fading quickly, with its respective parts having been absorbed by IaaS and PaaS. However, other experts argue that PaaS is an essential service, with some of its elements necessary to supporting operations.

Businesses like Amazon Web Services are blurring the line between these areas, offering services that meet businesses’ needs as part of their IaaS or SaaS offerings. For consumers, the delineation won’t matter, since many businesses will request a model that provides precisely the features they need. However, when choosing between various service providers, some consumers may find that smaller providers that specialize in IaaS or SaaS fail to offer functionality that suits their app development needs. This will enable those businesses that offer a more full-service model the ability to win business away from their competitors.

Cloud Services Need More Data Security Transparency for Better Risk Management

Customers of commercial cloud computing services, notably SaaS (software as a service), are realizing serious data security holes in the contractual provisions of what is acclaimed by many as a practical cost-cutting IT solution. The IT market analyst Gartner has released a comprehensive report pointing out some discomforting oversights in cloud computing contracts which it characterized as containing “ambiguous terms” involving the maintenance of data integrity, confidentiality, and data recovery after a system failure leading to loss or compromised data housed in remote cloud computing servers.

The Problem Uncovered by the Garner Report

The situation has highlighted risks to data security that has led to jitters among cloud service customers while making it more difficult for service providers to rationalize the risk they expose their clients to without any clear contractual provision that can allay their data security fears. According to the Gartner report, 80% of IT professionals overseeing the contractual purchase of cloud services will remain dismayed over the inadequacy of data security protection in SaaS agreements with providers up to the year 2015.

The analysis section comprising the main body of the Gartner Report has sub-section titles that clearly indict the current state of SaaS contracts in the area of data risk management. It cautions cloud users not to use SaaS contracts as a “Hedge against Risks,” and not to be complacent in assuming that these contracts provide the company with “Risk Transparency” or the “Adequate Service Levels for Security and Recovery.”

At the moment, there is no standard or consensus among cloud service vendors on how best to provide the proper data security commitments. SaaS vendors would naturally want to expose themselves to as little commitment as possible. Among them, a single failure that compromise data security could affect several hosted customers so that even modest compensation costs could easily rack up. As a result, most cloud providers deliberately avoid such contractual obligations, some preferring to provide less expensive penalties in the form of services in kind in the event they fail to live up to any part of the SLA.

Putting in the right SLA provisions

According to Alexa Bona, VP of the prestigious firm, cloud service users are getting frustrated over the lack of transparency provided by current and prospective cloud service providers in risk management. She added that at the very least, cloud users should ensure that the SaaS agreement they enter with providers contain a provision that allow for an annual 3rd party security audit and certification, as well as the option for a unilateral termination of the contract should the provider fail to perform such measures.

Cloud customers should demand that SaaS providers respond to audit assessment as required in mitigating the risks. Bona refers to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) whose “Cloud Controls Matrix” in spreadsheet form effectively provides a comprehensive model listing the necessary control objectives considered by CSA participants as having high priority in cloud computing security. The more users demand this level of commitment, there is a higher chance that service level standards will improve, and covering data protection risks can become common practice among vendors through regular assessments as simple as service questionnaires, responses to 3rd party audit assessments, and client’s own on-site audit checks.

The report’s analysis section ends with the admonition that users should not assume that SaaS contracts have enough data security and recovery provisions in their service levels. This has obviously been the case so far and users reviewing their contracts with cloud service providers are recognizing the loopholes that expose them to the risk of data losses and recovery problems they didn’t have before going into cloud computing.

IT professionals responsible for procuring cloud services must ensure that their SLAs contain specific provisions that contractually obligates service provides to meet company expectations in protecting data from external attacks, theft and implementing data recovery. The Gartner report recommends that SLA provisions should include data recovery objectives, recovery time thresholds, and data integrity measures with sufficient penalties if missed. IT service procurement executives should ensure that there is enough security commitments in writing which, at the bare minimum, provide for regular penetration assessments by 3rd party security auditors, and an obligation to correct any potential problem uncovered by such audits. Needless to say, failure to act on the audit assessments should give customers the option to cancel the contract as well as demand a meaningful monetary compensation for any failure to address shortfalls in the security audit.

The risk implications to the business have driven IT professionals in the areas of data recovery, security, business continuity, and standards compliance to voice their concerns in the purchasing process when getting into commercial cloud services. Bona sees their active participation from here on in reviewing contracted SLAs to ensure that such agreements hold up to the company’s data security standards by having sustainable deals for adequate risk management on the part of cloud service providers. Lastly, Bona advises that cloud customers should seriously consider 2-3 year fee liability limits, instead of the usual 1-year period, along with procuring added risk and liability insurance policies whenever possible.

Things to find out before you enter the Cloud

Taking your business into the Cloud is a big step.  When working with any vendor you should learn a few things to help better understand both what you want and what they are offering.

What Kind of Successes Have You With Other Clients?

Even if a vendor has had a lot of successes in the past, are they with clients that are similar to your business?  Also, bigger isn’t always better.  Larger companies often have traits that smaller businesses don’t have, and vice-versa.

Try Before You Buy

One of the things that make the Cloud popular is its flexibility and scalability.  I want this software as a service, this to back up to there, so forth and so on.  It can mean that what you want is unique.  Unique is as precise as it is unproven.  So it’s best to ask if there is a try before you try option.  That way you can see the ROI before you invest anything.

What Is The Disaster Recovery Plan?

Hope for the best and plan for the worst.  If something goes wrong, what will the vendor do?  The whole point of the Cloud is to maximize the productivity of your data that cannot happen if your data goes up in smoke.  If IT infrastructure goes down, what’s the back up and what’s the plan to get things back to normal?  These are important questions.

The ability to adapt makes and breaks businesses.  Your choices should be based on the most up-to-date information.

 

Office 365 Has A Plan For Everyday of the Week

We’ve covered Office 365 in the past.  It’s software as a service plan devised by Microsoft.  Many consider it a boon to the software industry, giving consumers the ability to pick and choose more of what they want.

Microsoft divides its services into two categories: small business and enterprise.  Each comes with their distinct plans.

Small Business

The premium version cost $15 user/month or an optional $150 user/year.   The main difference between this level of service and those beneath it are mobile apps and desktop versions of Office apps.

Word, PowerPoint and Excel are all available as mobile versions on phones and tablets that support Windows 8 RT.  Having mobile versions of Office will allow you to work and share on the go.

The other major advantage is having the desktop versions of Office rather than the stripped down version.  This way, your employees will not have to learn a new system.

If you want to go with the cheapest plan, $4 user/month, it will give you the basics.  You’ll get Office for up to five machines.  The major things you’ll lack will be web conferencing, website domain hosting, and the mobile apps.  However, you will get the guaranteed 99.9% uptime that will pay you for any loss of service.

Enterprise

The major service that the Enterprise version of Office 365 provides is intranet through SharePoint.  These are like websites, but accessible only by machines on your network.  Intranet sites can include a billboard for office memos or even product information for your sales associates.

The most expensive version of Enterprise, costing $20 user/month, has luxuries such as an auto responder for your voice land.  You know, press one to leave a message.

For more information about Office 365 click here.

 

 

AT&T rolling out the SaaS

To most consumers, the Cloud is a place to have offsite storage.  To designers, it can be a place to dump data to free up more hardware for other things.  How about adding retail space to the list?

AT&T is rolling out SaaS (Software as a Service) products to over three million of its small business customers.  Most notable on the list is the ability to access Microsoft Office suite programs over the Cloud.

This offers several advantages.  The first of which is the freeing of IT resources.  All the programs and the data you input into them are held offsite.  That means you need extra hardware to run an HD teleconference or require constantly looking for CD keys to give out when everyone upgrades to the latest version of Office.

The second major advantage is scale.  The SaaS is rolling out in two tiers.  The first one allows up to 25 users download and upload all the AT&T cloud services at any given time.  For smaller businesses, that means when a new employee is hired, you don’t need to buy yet another cd for Microsoft Office.  Instead, they can just download all the data they need and be able to look at and share all relevant documents.  Essentially, it’s like having your own server for only six dollars month.

The upper tier is basically the same save for unlimited users.  You’ll probably save on IT costs by having AT&T dealing with all that.

Yet, if you want your own dedicated cloud—you might want to check this out.

 

 

What Does Oracle Foresee in the Clouds?

In the world of IT, 35-year-old Oracle Corp. is one of the veterans. It also continues to be a big player, with $37 billion in revenues in its 2012 fiscal year.

But the company knows that if it wants to remain a big player, it needs to be big in the cloud. So, this June, the company announced Oracle Cloud, with online applications for customer relationship management, human relations and enterprise social networking. The Oracle cloud includes both platform as a service (PaaS), with online operating systems and network setups, and software as a service (SaaS), with applications and software that live on the company’s servers.

The move puts Oracle in line with longtime competitors like Microsoft, SAP and Google and also lines it up against Salesforce and other SaaS players. InfoWorld has an interesting interview with Oracle Senior VP Abhay Parasnis in which Parasnis emphasizes that the company’s cloud will offer an easy transition for large enterprises that have invested heavily in the way they work with their IT and now want to take it into the cloud.

Aside from moving its existing offerings into the cloud, Oracle has been on a buying spree lately, snapping up companies that offer various cloud services. Among its acquisitions this year are network virtualization provider Xsigo Systems, social media manager Involver, and cloud-based talent management company Taleo Corp., social marketing platform Virtue and social media and text analysis company Collective Intellect.

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts on major cloud computing players.

Salesforce.com and Cloud Software

So far, our series of posts on major cloud computing players has focused on companies involved in the infrastructure-as-a-service market, the fast-growing business of providing raw computing power that customers can use to store their data and run their systems as they see fit.

Another smaller but still very significant part of cloud computing is software as a service (SaaS), and one of the most important companies in that area is Salesforce.com. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that spending on SaaS will rise 18 percent in 2012 to $14.5 billion. Meanwhile, Salesforce says it will reach close to $3 billion in annual revenue in its fiscal 2013. The company’s market share is especially significant since it’s one of the few big players that focuses exclusively on SaaS rather than doing it as an offshoot of other business areas.

As its name might suggest, Salesforce is largely focused on helping businesses work with customers. Its customer relationship management, or CMR, system lets users access data on clients and prospects from anywhere and keep track of interactions with them. The company also offers a “platform as a service” product known as Force.com, which lets a company build its own applications on Salesforce’s infrastructure and integrate them into salesforce.com.

Like many cloud computing companies, Salesforce also hosts a marketplace for applications built by outside developers that are compatible with the company’s own offerings.

The benefits of using a plug-and-play system like Salesforce’s CMR are probably obvious to anyone who’s thought about getting someone to build them a complicated system from scratch. But some experts say there’s also a downside to SaaS, as demonstrated in a late-June outage at Salesforce. Companies that run on that kind of virtual software depend on their vendor to make sure everything is properly backed up and constantly available. Those that use IaaS have a bit more ability to create their own redundant systems or otherwise build in failsafe mechanisms.

Which goes to show that, with SaaS even more than with IaaS, it’s important to evaluate vendors thoroughly before buying in to any system.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts on major cloud computing players.