Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Scanning to the Cloud – ECM Helps Clean up Our Physical World

I’ve written about this subject as it relates to my own desktop and possibly yours too, but the response to the web seminar we hosted about the potential organizational benefits of cloud computing and ECM convinced me that there’s more for us to discuss. Over eighty organizations registered for yesterday’s seminar, titled “Can you scan to a cloud? The benefits of scanning documents to electronic storage repositories” and we received a lot good questions from the attendees as well. The whole seminar is recorded for your viewing pleasure at the above link.

I think the interest in the combination of ECM and the cloud is driven by the increased benefits that can be realized by organizations vs. individuals engaged in using these technologies. While it’s great to get documents and files off of my desk and stored more securely, organizations gain the advantage of being able to multiply the value of content stored in the cloud amongst their employees and trading partners. It’s kind of like a network effect scale of improvement resulting from improved content discovery, re-use and an overall enhanced ability to respond to the business environment as a whole.

Organizations will still need help migrating content to the cloud. It’s not as simple as pointing all the MFP’s to some new web-enabled repository. New policies will need to be created. Not all documents may be permitted in the cloud, as legal restrictions often trail technology advancements. Cloud service providers will need to be carefully investigated and able to prove their ability to support various service level agreements. Additional integration work will probably also have to be performed between cloud services and the software and scanners, or MFPs that will become the on-ramp to the cloud.

Fortunately, this process has already begun. A growing number of hardware vendors including Canon and Ricoh are supporting open standards for document transfer over the web, like SSL and WebDAV. ECM connectors from vendors like Captiva or Xythos also help automate the classification of documents during or after scanning helping improve discovery and aiding business process automation. Bar code support and zonal OCR can also help distribute large scanning jobs across an organization or to third parties who can perform the tasks of migrating content to the cloud more cost effectively.

While public data clouds may not be suited for sensitive institutional content, organizations can look to cloud services providers or host their own “internal” clouds to achieve the same network benefits. Most will probably want to take a step-by-step approach beginning with public oriented content first, such as marketing or sales collateral. As they gain experience, they can begin adding native electronic content together with scanned documents, creating complete workspaces of reference and work in process documents in their clouds.

For those of you that would prefer to migrate to the cloud from the comfort of your own office vs. visiting that MFP down the hall there are plenty of options. Check out Fujitsu or Kodak desktop scanners or a new one that’s caught my attention, Neat ( There are even client applications like our own Xythos Drive and Xythos Filer that can help make uploading and classifying documents a snap. Once those files are off your desk, you’ll feel better. More importantly, once they are safely stored in the cloud your organization will perform better. Have fun!

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