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4 tips for migrating ECM to the cloud

Outdated ECM systems use a lot of resources, and neglect can render them almost useless. By migrating to the cloud, businesses might be able to avoid such problems in the future.

There are a lot of old, on-premises enterprise content management systems in workplaces today, outdated and in dire need of replacement. A decade ago, businesses may have replaced an aging ECM system with a new on-premises platform, and odds are that the current outdated system was a replacement for a previously outdated one.

Many organizations are looking to craft a strategy for migrating ECM to the cloud to break this never-ending rip-and-replace cycle. Organizations need to think about why their current ECM systems are failing and use the cloud to change their future path.

This cycle of failed systems is due to multiple factors. Historically, businesses have focused on the functionality of a system and not the user experience. This led to low user adoption. If staff adopted an ECM system, IT departments typically neglected it over time, leading to a degradation of performance and a system that didn't change with the business.

When to consider migrating ECM to the cloud

Migrating to the cloud, like any ECM migration, is not a small undertaking. That is why the first step to a successful migration is understanding when to migrate. There are several key times to migrate ECM to the cloud.

  • Choosing new ECM software. When you are selecting a new ECM platform, you are already committing to a migration. Migrating it to the cloud versus to another on-premises system is simply a difference in logistical planning. Organizations investing in content migration should strongly consider migrating that content to an ECM cloud platform.
  • Decommissioning data centers. This is a common driver for migrating any system to the cloud. Operating a data center is not a core business function for most organizations. They prefer to focus on the software supporting their business processes. Once that shift has begun, maintaining a data center to support only one or two ECM systems is an inefficient use of resources.
  • Rapid growth in storage demand. Managing storage is a constant challenge in large-scale ECM deployments. The longer organizations must maintain content, the greater the challenge to keep up with the continually increasing demand for storage. Migrating content to the cloud turns those challenges into configuration changes.
  • You are already in the cloud. Organizations are adopting online collaboration tools, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, faster than ever. Staff inevitably shares and stores content on these cloud platforms. Migrating ECM to the cloud can provide a common location for creating and sharing content across the organization, decreasing content duplication and improving the findability of content.

It is important to note that not every ECM migration involves the migration of content. Organizations can migrate their ECM-supported business processes to use a cloud-based ECM platform. You can then archive the old content or store it in inexpensive cloud-based storage, such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service Glacier.

Benefits of cloud-based enterprise content management systems

4 strategies for migrating ECM to the cloud

1. Design for the cloud

The biggest lesson in migrating ECM to the cloud is that simply lifting and shifting won't achieve the benefits organizations are looking for. If you size online servers and install applications as you have in the past, you will get the same old results. The only difference is you now have a new cost structure.

To reap the benefits of cloud migration, organizations need to use what the cloud provides, including the following:

  • Fully managed database instances. Size your database to match the workload on day one. Then, scale it up or down as the workload changes.
  • Dynamically sized servers. Pay for what you need and not what the output of a lengthy sizing exercise says you need. Let real metrics -- not fancy spreadsheets -- drive infrastructure requirements.
  • Automatic deployment of upgrades. Deploy updates in parallel to existing components. When new components are up and running, the load balancers will redirect the new traffic. Your required downtime is now near zero with proper planning.
  • Containers and serverless technologies. Focus more on the functionality you need and spend less time working on the environment it will run.

When you design a strategy for migrating ECM to the cloud, design the optimal system for today and tomorrow. The flexibility and automation the cloud provides are powerful when done correctly.

2. Use software as a service

If there is a well-understood system component, consider adding a SaaS system into the mix. Managing digital assets such as video is a good example of when to consider using a SaaS platform. Key advantages of SaaS are high scalability, increased reliability and automatic upgrades and improvements.

Businesses should start designing a strategy for migrating ECM to the cloud to solve a straightforward content problem.

The tradeoff, however, is businesses are limited in how they can customize the behavior of the SaaS offering. SaaS platforms have a finite set of configuration options and, typically, do not permit the same code-based customizations available by more traditional vendors.

For example, a business might determine that the new ECM system has to be a SaaS-based platform to avoid another cycle of neglect by the IT department. The SaaS provider will nurture and maintain a SaaS system, even if the overall feature set is not as fine-tuned as one implemented internally.

3. Make incremental progress

Businesses should start designing a strategy for migrating ECM to the cloud to solve a straightforward content problem. The resulting system will be the foundation for cloud-based content services.

Some organizations start with the most complex application, but that leads to a longer deployment time. You don't want your organization climbing a steep learning curve, while working to understand the nuances of a complex process.

Work together to build the minimum viable product for your cloud-based content service needs. Then, when you address the next content need, you add functionality and complexity without determining all the details of the cloud environment.

4. Accelerate to the future

Once the first cloud-based content services application is live, build upon that success. You may realize that you can expand faster than before and rapidly increase hardware resources in size and number. And, as an added benefit, if you size part of the system too large, you can shrink it back down to reduce your costs. There will be times when you have to take a step back from rolling out new applications to focus on optimizing everyday operations.

As cloud-based content services mature, content projects will no longer focus on replacing legacy systems and you can address new problems.

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