Moving your Records Management application to the Cloud; why would you do it?

by Frank 20. May 2012 06:00

We have all heard and read a lot about the Cloud and why we should all be moving that way. I wrote a little about this in a previous post. However, when we look at specific applications like records management we need to think about the human interaction and how that may be affected if we change from an in-house system to a hosted system. That is, how will the move affect your end-users and records management administrator? Ideally, it will make their job easier and take away some pain. If it makes their job harder and adds pain then you should not be doing it even if it saves you money.

We also need to think about the services we may need when we move to the Cloud. That is, will we need new services we don’t have now and will the Cloud vendor offer to perform services, like application maintenance, we currently do in-house?

In general, normal end-user functions should work the same whether we are running off an internal system or a Cloud-based one. This of course will depend upon the functionality of your records management software. Hopefully, there will be no difference to either the functionality or the user interface when you move to the Cloud. For the sake of this post let’s assume that there is a version of your records management system that can run either internally or in the Cloud and that the normal end-user interface is identical or as near-as-such that it doesn’t matter. If the end-user interface is massively different then you face extra cost and disruption because of the need to convert and retrain your users and this would be a reason not to move to the Cloud unless you were planning to change vendors and convert anyway.

Now we need to look at administrator functions, those tasks usually performed by the records management administrator or IT specialist to configure and manage the application.  Either the records management administrator can perform the same tasks using the Cloud version or you need to ask the Cloud vendor to perform some services for you. This will be at a cost so make sure you know what it is beforehand.  There are some administrator functions you will probably be glad to outsource to the Cloud vendor such as maintaining the server and SQL Server and taking and verifying backups.

I would assume that the decision to move a records management application to the Cloud would and should involve the application owner and IT management. The application owner has to be satisfied that the end-user experience will be better or at least equal to that of the in-house installation and IT management needs to be sure that the integrity and security of the Cloud application will at the very least be equal to that of the in-house installation. And finally, the application owner, the records manager, needs to be satisfied that the IT support from the vendor of the Cloud system will be equal to or better than the IT support being received from the in-house or currently out-sourced IT provider.

There is no point in moving to the Cloud if the end-user or administrator experience will deteriorate just as there is no point in moving to the Cloud if the level of IT support falls.

Once you have made the decision to move your records management application to the Cloud you need to plan the cutover in a way that causes minimal disruption to your operation. Ideally, your staff will finish work on the in-house application on Friday evening and begin working on the Cloud version the next Monday morning. You can’t afford to have everyone down for days or weeks while IT specialists struggle to make everything work to your satisfaction. This means you need to test the Cloud system extensively before going live in production. In this business, little or no testing equals little or no success and a great deal of pain and frustration.

If it was me, I would make sure that the move to the Cloud meant improvements in all facets of the operation. I would want to make sure that the Cloud vendor took on the less pleasant, time-consuming and technical tasks like managing and configuring the required IT infrastructure. I would also want them to take on the more bothersome, awkward and technically difficult application administration tasks. Basically, I would want to get rid of all the pain and just enjoy the benefits.

You should plan to ‘outsource’ all the pain to make your life and the life of your staff easier and more pleasant and in doing so, make everyone more productive. It is like paying an expert to do your tax return and getting a bigger refund. The Cloud solution must be presented as a value proposition. It should take away all the non-core activities that suck up your valuable time and allow you and your staff more time to do the core activities in a better and more efficient way; it should allow you to become more productive.

I am a great believer in the Cloud as a means of improving productivity, lowering costs and improving data integrity and security. It is all doable given available facilities and technology but in the end, it is up to you and your negotiations with the Cloud provider.  Stand firm and insist that the end result has to be a better solution in every way; compromise should not be part of the agreement.

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