John McNeil 18 July 2011 09:54:53
When looking at options for Document Management Systems there are a number of online solutions on offer. The online providers offer some specific advantages over internally hosted solutions. Equally there are a number of concerns using external service providers around security and confidentiality.
There is perhaps another consideration that makes the decision more complex. Focus the business to business information web site had an interesting question posted the other day. The question got me thinking about the decisions we make going into things and the questions we ask ourselves when exiting.
‘If a cloud service provider goes out of business, what happens to your data?’
Now for those of us who consider using cloud based services to hold and access our documents, this question is very relevant. The question has far reaching implications way beyond the obvious of what happens to the data.
Imagine, one day you come in to the office to discover that your service provider has ceased operations. This is the service provider that holds all of your documents, the means by which you service your customers. What is it that goes through your mind once the initial panic is over and inquiry begins?
Well to avoid such a situation there are some areas you might want think about.
Now some people might suggest that you have an off site backup of the data that you can access.
Well I would view it an advantage that the service provider handles the backup, so in this scenario they would also have the backup. You might decide otherwise.
When setting up the service you might have opted for a replicated solution across multiple sites.
The chances are that the multiple sites are all owned or control by the same company. If you could get a solution that replicates across different suppliers then this would help.
It may be that the service provider offered or is willing to offer an export.
Many providers are focused on making it easy to add content as this is where the benefit of their service comes from, seldom does focus go to withdrawing from the service offering. Pick a provider that has thought about this and you will better placed to withdraw from the service.
You were well switched on when selecting the provider and they can export your data.
What format will this be in? For a document management system will this be a series of documents on a disk, an FTP folder on a site with hundreds or thousands of documents to download or will it be in pages and pages of XML?
It’s OK the service provider offered an excellent exit strategy and provide the data and applications require to run it in house and will ship it next day delivery on DVDs with full installation instructions.
Who will install this software and load the data and on what machines will they load it onto? How long will this all take?
Let’s assume you and the service provider worked through the export of data and what you receive is well structured and understood by you. How would you load this into another suppliers service?
These thoughts all stemmed from a question about a service provider going off line, however it need not be so serious, what if you simply wanted to move your service? How would you manage that?
I apologise if this all seems a bit doom and gloom, that is not my intention. My aim is to highlight that our thoughts in adopting a solution need to be not just about what the service can provide on a day to day basis but also what options we have as we grow and evolve over time.
I always go into an agreement hoping for the best but ensuring I understand the flip side.