Myth Busting the ECM Cloud

Pretty much all enterprise content should now be stored and managed in the Cloud, for that was the bold analyst prediction circa 2008. The reality today is nothing close to those predictions. Most ECM content remains stubbornly on-premises, and much of the content that has technically migrated to the Cloud is on-premises in so-called ‘private clouds’… It’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

In our inquiry work at Deep Analysis, one of the fun things is to spot trends and patterns in the questions we get asked. This year one of the key themes that have emerged in our conversations has been the challenge and reality of Cloud versus on-premises content management. It is little wonder, as, over the past five years or so, every ECM vendor has rushed to market with their Cloud story. Many have gotten caught up in the hype. The Cloud is real; a lot of content is stored there, the success of firms like Box & Dropbox are a testament to that. But in larger organizations, the shift has been sluggish and often reluctant.

The reluctance to move content to the Cloud is not due to Luddite tendencies, nor is it due to organizations questioning the ability of the Cloud to store and manage content effectively. The reluctance comes down to two key concerns:

1: Buyers understanding that the Cloud at scale is not a cheap option 

2: The Cloud doesn’t offer enough advantages to make a move worthwhile

Let’s take a quick look at those concerns. Enterprise cloud in 2008 seemed like a no brainer; it was going to be cheaper, faster, easier. It would take away the need for in house IT teams and for in house infrastructure. Fast forward to 2018 and experience has shown that it can be just as, if not more expensive. No faster, no more easy to manage and in large organizations at least, still requires IT teams, to maintain. There are use cases where Cloud will win out every time, but it does not win out in every situation.

Over time, cloud computing will continue to take a bigger and bigger share of the market. But that shift will take time, probably a lot of time. Until then, with the exception of firms that have predicated their entire basis on cloud computing, on-premises options are still required and often preferred by buyers. And at the end of the day, it is buyers who dictate and mold markets, not pundits. Buyers usually have a broader and more balanced view of the options available to them. Buyers that I have spoken with in the past year have often pointed me to (for example) Hitachi & IBM’s newer object storage options. Systems that have been specifically designed for massive scalability. I mention this as those immersed in the cloud world appear at times to believe that on-premises options stopped evolving. In fact, they have evolved ‘massively’ to provide cost comparable or even lower-cost options to the Cloud.

The long story short here is that buyers are not wrong, they are not misguided, and they are not misinformed. Buyers want choice, and the on-premises highway still represents a viable and in many cases, the preferable route to take. One that offers them, affordably, all the control, ownership, and options they require and the option to buy rather than rent. For, in the final analysis, that is what so many informed buyers are most concerned about, ownership and costs. On-premises provides ownership, the Cloud (at least the public Cloud) is a rental proposition, and like any rental proposition, it is dependent on the landlord. And landlords in any domain have a reputation of changing terms and conditions and upping the rent whenever they feel fit.

Though I am personally not keen on the term hybrid, the future is a mix of the Cloud and on-premises. For major organizations, it likely always will be, and in our opinion, at least that is no bad thing.

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