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Collaboration in the cloud: Top reasons businesses are adopting a hybrid model

A recently published AIIM Industry Watch report, ECM at the Crossroads, found that one in four organisations today face dilemmas with their cloud strategies. Indeed, 25 per cent of the organisations polled for the report noted that they are seeing unofficial use of cloud file-sharing sites, most of which are consumer grade.

In addition, 50 per cent of business leaders say they're unlikely to ever put content applications in the cloud, mostly due to governance and security reasons. Other top concerns voiced for a cloud-only strategy include fragmentation of repositories and a lack of retention rules.

Other industry experts, including IDC, predict that most organisations will take a long time to migrate to a pure cloud strategy until technologies evolve and regulations shift: "IDC's view is we're in the midst of a very long-term shift to cloud computing that will unfold over the next couple of decades," says IDC analyst Melissa Webster.

She adds: "We're still in the early stages of this shift. In fact, much of the focus so far has been on private cloud and virtualisation of servers, storage, clients and networks. It will take a long time for organisations that run their own datacentres to move all mission-critical applications to the cloud. We believe that even then, they will use a mix of public and private clouds."

For those reasons, many organisations are realising that hybrid cloud is the best option for them. Enterprise content management (ECM) deployed using hybrid models supports a variety of use cases, and provides customers with a solid pathway to the future, where the cloud is likely to be even more prevalent. Businesses are recognising the opportunities that the cloud offers and meeting the needs of mobile workers, while balancing the need to secure enterprise content.

Flexibility and choice are key considerations when selecting the most suitable collaboration tools, in order to increase workplace productivity and efficiency, and ultimately to help advance the business. It's also vital to enable easy sharing of content with employees, partners, customers and other external audiences.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, BYOD policies and an increasing need for agility, the cloud is fast becoming the best way to deliver solutions to users that can still meet enterprise needs. However, due to regulatory restrictions, there are many use cases that still require a significant on-premises presence.

Some of the top reasons organisations are adopting a hybrid model today include:

The need to collaborate with external users: More than ever, organisations are working together to solve increasingly complex problems. Users need to share content and collaborate with others both inside and outside the firewall. Traditional on-premise solutions can drive users to unsanctioned file sharing tools (the 'Dropbox Problem') creating content chaos and leaks outside the enterprise firewall.

BYOD proliferation: Many businesses have opened up content to mobile devices so users can access and share content both inside and outside the firewall. VPNs don't always work and add unnecessary complexity for those seeking simple access to their content. As more users bring a wider range of devices into the organisation, IT departments have been tasked with finding better solutions to integrate a variety of new devices so enterprise content remains accessible and secure.

Doing more with less: Many IT departments are pressured to do more with smaller budgets. Hosting on-premise solutions is expensive once servers, maintenance, upgrades are redundancy are factored in. On top of that, the pace of users' demands is accelerating, and IT needs to free up resources to deliver new solutions for users quickly without the burden of hosting legacy systems.

Most organisations realise that cloud is not an either/or proposition and that the best results are achieved when they can mix and match features and benefits of both public and private clouds. That way they don't have to compromise on security, functionality or control and choose what works best for them, not what the technology dictates.

John Newton is CTO, chairman, and founder of enterprise content management specialist Alfresco. He has enjoyed one of the longest and most influential careers in the industry, also founding Documentum in 1990 and working as a founding engineer at at Ingres, the world's first commercial relational database.