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Embrace a Cloud Architecture - Section Quick Links

When it comes to managing content in the cloud, it’s not a question of if, but when, how, and for what use cases. This habit covers some practical considerations for pursuing a successful cloud-based content management strategy.

Embrace a Cloud Architecture

Why Have Content in the Cloud?

Organizations of all sizes and industries have embraced content management in the cloud. That’s because IT can innovate faster, more cheaply, and with greater agility using a cloud-native content services platform. The benefits of delivering ECM in the cloud include:


Reduced TCO: Save big with elastic, low-cost compute and storage resources; eliminate the upfront infrastructure investment and pay only for the capacity you use.

Accelarated Time to Value: Implement in weeks, not months; avoid provisioning delays and quickly roll out new use cases with shared content services that scale on the fly.

Modernization: Innovate in ways never before possible with cloud-first content platforms that use modern architectures and approaches; advance digital transformation initiatives.

More Value from Content: Make enterprise content available to more people and more applications; use machine learning technologies and other AI services against a central, curated content store.

Better Collaboration: Support a mobile, distributed workforce that shares and co-creates content with internal and external partners; improve information flow and decision making.

Stronger Information Governance: Leverage the considerable security and compliance investments made by leading cloud providers; regain content control by fending off shadow IT solutions.

Architectural Considerations & Deployment Options

SaaS Based Content Services 
There are two basic approaches to managing content in the cloud. One strategy is to adopt a SaaS-based solution. Deployment is relatively quick, and the SaaS provider scales and upgrades your solution automatically.

But there are downsides. It’s hard to integrate SaaS solutions with other applications and harder still to customize and extend them to meet specific business requirements. You’re dependent on a vendor-driven feature set and release schedule. And the solutions typically lack critical content management capabilities, like integrated governance and process services.

Question:Have you evaluated the SaaS vs VPC benefit?
Liberty Mutual's Global Specialty Business went with VPC on AWS and are on track to save $21m over 5 years and have boosted productivity.


Content Services in a Virtual Private Cloud
The other, often better, strategy is to deploy your own cloud-ready content services platform in a virtual private cloud (VPC) on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.

This “platform as a service” approach makes ECM capabilities available to any enterprise application through open APIs. IT teams can call discrete content services “on the fly” to meet the needs of diverse users and lines of business, today and into the future. It’s fast, flexible, and takes full advantage of the cloud’s elasticity and economies of scale. If you’ve already moved applications to the cloud, this approach extends your investment in cloud infrastructure and skills.


Deployment Options

Deploying content services in a VPC typically requires these foundational cloud services: 


  • Compute resources for content services, search indexing, transformation, and process execution
  • Storage resources for content, indexes, and audit
  • Database resources for metadata and metadata hierarchies


There is no one-size-fits-all deployment. How you approach your implementation depends on many factors, including performance requirements, cost, availability, networking, security, compliance, and user distribution. 


Cloud Services Considerations


Cloud providers offer compute resources to fit a variety of use cases. Memory-optimized instances are recommended for the content services application. You’ll want a performance-optimized instance (high IOPS) for indexing.



Your choice of storage has a huge impact on TCO. It’s a trade-off that boils down to cost vs. frequency of access and speed of retrieval. Some storage services are optimized for frequently used or “hot” data. They’re more expensive, but are the best choice for content that users need immediately and often. Storage services that are optimized for infrequently used or “cold” data are better for archiving and backup. They offer durable, extremely low-cost storage with slower retrieval times. 



Databases are notoriously hard to scale, administer, and upgrade. A managed database service lets you offload this time-consuming headache. Services based on new cloud-native databases enable sub-second access to billions of documents and are well-suited to modern ECM use cases.



Once you’ve set up a scalable, performant content services platform, you can further enhance its functionality with value-added cloud services. For example, you can use artificial intelligence (AI)/ machine learning services to update content metadata or conduct image analysis. The cloud’s elastic infrastructure simplifies content analytics for large data sets and complex queries. For more on using cloud-based AI services in your content solution, see the Leverage the Data in Content habit.

Achieving ROI and Savings with the Cloud

Enterprise architects are often asked to quantify the financial benefits of a cloud migration. To do this, you’ll need to compare the cost of managing content in the cloud vs. in the data center, typically over a three to five year period. When calculating the savings, consider that cloud-based ECM allows you to:

  • Pay for capacity on an as-needed basis
  • Avoid building out infrastructure to handle peak loads 
  • Cut storage spending with the optimal use of “hot” and “cold” resources
  • Reduce the cost of infrastructure and software support
  • Eliminate license and maintenance fees for retired legacy enterprise content management systems
  • Avoid the expense of distributing content globally (shipping or data transfer fees)
  • Decrease development costs (and time) by reusing content services


The total savings can amount to millions of dollars annually. In one deployment, the first year’s storage savings effectively “paid for” the cost of migration. Plus, the shift from a CAPEX to an OPEX budget can mean it’s easier to get a cloud project approved.


How Much Can You Save?

TEI Study
Check out this Total Economic Impact™ study by Forrester Consulting. It found that running Alfresco Content Services on AWS delivers 148% ROI and payback benefits in less than 6 months.
TCO Calculator
Use this TCO calculator from AWS to compare the cost of running your ECM application on AWS vs. an on-premises environment.

Beyond Financial Gains

In addition to cost savings, an important consideration is how content services in the cloud will benefit business operations. Will employee productivity or process efficiency increase? Metrics like cycle time, accuracy rate, and output/employee can also quantify the value of your cloud project to the business.


Of course, cloud-based ECM delivers many benefits that aren’t as easy to measure, like agility and control. Content is made more available and valuable, enhancing business decisions and outcomes. IT can make more strategic contributions because less time is spent “keeping the lights on.” Ultimately, it’s about creating opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage.

When to Move to the Cloud

There is no set path to ECM in the cloud. Some companies start small with a low-risk project that quickly demonstrates the benefits of migrating. Others jump in with a digital transformation initiative to achieve a high-stakes business goal. Often an application refresh or workload move is a catalyst for re-evaluating content management strategy and systems.


Whatever your approach or timeline, it’s important to begin planning for the cloud now. Start thinking about the technical implications of delivering content services in the cloud and readying your team with the necessary training. The decisions you make today can ensure a smoother migration in the future.



Optimizing Cloud Migration 
Moving content to the cloud requires thoughtful planning and coordination. Here are a few lessons learned from organizations that have undertaken successful cloud migrations.


Content Cleanup
Consider your migration a chance to “clean house.” Inventory your content to determine what moves to the cloud, what stays behind, and why. Ask: What is the value of this content to the business? And: Is it subject to any compliance requirements? There are a variety of analytic approaches, automated tools, and specialist firms to help with this evaluation process. Any ROT—Redundant, Obsolete, or Trivial content—should be disposed of in a legally defensible manner.


Content Context
Use the information gathered in the content analysis to bring as much value as possible to your cloud ECM solution. Enrich your content with the right metadata (and drop any metadata that’s redundant or unused). This will make files more “findable.” You can also use metadata to control content access, move content through a process, and automate records management. Cost and time considerations will determine whether you do this processing before or after content is moved to the cloud.


Content Transfer
How much content do you need to move and by when? Streaming data over a high-speed Internet connection works for smaller content migrations. For large (petabyte-scale) migrations, your best bet is an appliance like AWS Snowball. Transferring data on a “massive USB stick” avoids issues like high network costs, bandwidth constraints, security concerns, and long transfer times. (It takes more than 100 days to transfer 100TBs of data over a dedicated 100 Mbps connection!) You can also do one big upfront transfer using an appliance followed by several smaller online transfers.

Question:Does your current ECM system(s) support your cloud strategy?
Learn how leading brands such as Liberty Mutual use content cloud solutions to innovate and drive digital transformation.

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Choosing a Platform

Here are some criteria for evaluating your technology choices when you’re ready to move to the cloud:
Vendor’s Commitment to the Cloud
Does the vendor’s roadmap demonstrate a significant and ongoing investment in content services in the cloud? Look for technology partnerships with leading cloud providers as well as product capabilities that leverage the latest cloud services to enhance your content apps.
Cloud-First Architecture
You can’t realize all the benefits of the cloud by lifting-and-shifting a monolithic legacy ECM system. Instead, opt for a modern, cloud-native platform that supports new application models and takes full advantage of the unique features of the cloud.
Accelerated Cloud Deployment
Leading vendors kick-start your deployment with a reference architecture that builds in cloud best practices. In some cases, you can start up a production-ready environment in less than one hour with just a couple of clicks. From there, it’s easy to adapt the deployment to your particular use case or development needs (integration testing, proof of concept, etc.).
Open Technology
IDC calls open a “mandatory cloud evaluation criterion.” Adopting a content services platform built on open technologies and open APIs lets you customize, integrate, and extend your cloud solution quickly and cost-effectively. Plus, you can tap into the innovations of the open source community.
Industrial Grade in the Cloud
Can the vendor provide benchmarks for processing documents at speed and scale on a cloud technology stack? This is especially important for moving high-throughput workloads to the cloud—think claims administration in insurance or mortgage origination in banking.
Hybrid Cloud Support
Phased cloud migrations and industry-specific regulatory issues mean nearly all organizations will run a hybrid cloud at some point. Platforms that can be deployed on premises and in the cloud (with selective content synchronization) let you move to the cloud on your own terms and timeline.

Explore More

OnDemand Webinar:
How to Quantify the Strategic Impact of Migrating Your Content to AWS
Learn how Liberty Mutual increased productivity, streamlined compliance and got on track to save $21m over 5 years with Alfresco on AWS.
Watch now

White Paper: Forrester Consulting Total Economic Impact™ of Alfresco Content Services on AWS

Download Now

White Paper: Creating the Business Case and Realizing the Benefits of ECM in the Virtual Private Cloud

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Resource: AWS Quick Start: Alfresco Content Services on the AWS Cloud

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Podcast: AWS Podcast: Alfresco AWS Quick Start

Listen Now

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AIIM’s Industry Watch: ECM at the Crossroads:

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