I made my first business trip to Moscow a few weeks ago. It was a remarkable experience and it’s always very interesting for me to indulge in different countries and cultures.
Traveling internationally has a great way to put things into perspective. The world is a very big place, but at the core “people are people”. What people want is to live, work and be in peace. We all have that in common for the most part. One of our drivers was kind enough to take a slight detour and drive by infamous Red Square as seen in the photo below:
The Russian people aren’t so unlike American or Japanese people as you might imagine, in my opinion. I have found obvious commonalities in each of these cultures are a ‘hard-working element’. It’s inspirational to go to a foreign country/city and just witness the people and business go-about their daily routines. True, living in the United States, I sometimes get jaded and frustrated with American laziness and gluttony but I feel, honestly, if I think about it in comparison to other societies, American business is quiet efficient.
Another commonality between Russian and Japanese society is their consideration for visitors. I absolutely admire this quality about these two countries which are distinctly different in some ways, yet quite similar in other ways. The Russian people went out-of-their-way to try and communicate in English at the airport, in the restaurant or in the hotel. They really did their best to make me feel at home.
If you ever do visit Moscow, however, be prepared for traffic! Wow – this was something I was surprised about. Although we had drivers for our travels and didn’t have to rent a car it was crazy just simply being a passenger. There is massive traffic in Moscow that you should know. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and know the back roads, if possible. I would compare the level of traffic congestion to that of Manhattan, New York (US). However, the drivers in Moscow are aggressive, just like in Manhattan, but they have amazing skill to weave and dodge obstacles and they lack the anger that overcomes American drivers. In Moscow I did not witness one single driver either honk their horn and/or ‘flip-the-bird’. It seems as though this traffic mess is just accepted as a condition for living in Moscow.
To compensate for the traffic congestion it seems that law enforcement is quite lenient. A result of the massive traffic is that people have to park their cars somewhere and, believe me; they park them wherever they can find space! You park on the sidewalk, sideways or in other areas because you have to. Maybe I can go into the Parking Garage business in Moscow?
Finally, again, I appreciate all the hospitality of the Russian people. Stereotypes and history is something hard to overcome but it seems that the integrated approach of a world economy is truly a reality. I’m humbled to see it, and to be a part of it.
Capture: The ideal application for Cloud
As I was brainstorming on a topic to write for this blog, I was inspired by Bob Larrivee’s latest AIIM community blog entitled “It Came From The Cloud” (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/It-Came-From-The-Cloud) where he asked some simple, yet thought-provoking questions. So this begs the question why anyone would resist such obvious benefits of “cloud” (http://www.aiim.org/community/blogs/expert/A-cloudy-future-for-document-capture)? I’m sure there are many legitimate concerns and issues but I would like to focus on the concern of security for the purpose of this blog post.
These days the term “cloud” as it relates to usage in corporate enterprise typically engenders strong feelings one way or the other. Benefits such as quicker application deployment, reduced IT costs and the ability to offer a more feature-rich experience to workers is not often debated. What is debated, and is a reasonable discussion, is the viability of “the cloud” from a security standpoint.
Security: Technology versus Trust
These concerns are well founded and should be addressed but we should definitely draw a major distinction between the technology itself and whether a provider is trusted with data. Therefore, when we understand this distinction between technology and trust, the cloud should not be discounted as a legitimate option for enterprise simply due to fear alone from a technology perspective.
Below is a short list of various security items that should be considered when contemplating a cloud strategy. This short list is not by any means an extensive list of security items to consider, however, please ask yourself this, for each one of these items is an individual business or a mass data center more equipped to handle capabilities? For those who would really consider the question of whether on-premise or cloud is more secure then the conclusion to me is clear.
- Private clouds – Dedicated servers and databases to only one organization
- Physical access – Limit access to only those that might need to physically touch equipment
- Data encryption – Encrypt data in motion and data at rest
- Device authentication – Trust devices in addition to users
- System updates and patches – Apply security updates as soon as possible
- Secure disk wiping – Securely erase temporary data from disk drives
- Network architecture – Databases beyond firewalls and web data on front-end servers
- Logging – Track all activity to detect intrusions
- Policy/Governance – Consistently review policies and procedures for improvement
Conservative cloud adoption by Enterprise
While I certainly would not expect major enterprise organizations to jump in head-first and move all their data and applications to the cloud, what does make logical sense is for them to move transactional applications (versus storage applications) to the cloud. Specifically, moving “Capture” to the cloud makes complete sense. Why? Capture processes images only temporarily then stores the data wherever you’d like, including in the security-hardened ECM system. In other words, the capture application does not store images or metadata in a database. Capture is a processing activity, not storage and retrieval.
One other observations about Cloud for the Enterprise; I can absolutely see a trend towards building massive infrastructure now in preparation for delivering robust applications eventually. Having attended Cloud Connect 2012 (Santa Clara)http://www.cloudconnectevent.com/santaclara/, it was remarkable to see the level of interest among major IT providers and well-known Enterprise organizations. Without a doubt, the infrastructure is being implemented now for what will be an onslaught of cloud services in the not-too-distant future.
Major adoption by Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB’s)
In contrary to Enterprise, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB’s) have to make a decision on how to improve efficiency with no or limited IT resources. For SMB, the cloud offers opportunities like never seen before. Why? Because a shared resource makes sophisticated technology available to a greater audience. Why? Because costs to the vendors are decreased through mass-consumption by users and this allows vendors to make these advanced technologies available to the masses. Also, and from a security perspective, using cloud storage and capture as a rented service from providers allows SMB organizations to focus on their businesses instead of burdened by maintaining technology. When the choice is to not utilize any technology and continue to process paperwork manually, or to utilize cloud technology to capture, store and retrieve with a little, yet limited, risk, it’s clear that SMB’s have chosen limited risk with great efficiency improvements.
Like never seen before, SMB’s are empowered to create a mash-up of useful business applications without the high cost associated with doing-so. Clearly there is an undeniable trend towards Cloud Storage from providers such as Box, Evernote, Catch, Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. and Cloud Capture is a logical complementary technology to further improve efficiencies and decrease operational costs.
Next steps: Being indecisive is inefficient
With such overwhelming evidence that adopting cloud services makes sense then the next logical question is “what now?”. Clearly security is, and should be, a major concern for enterprise as well as SMB, but with enterprise the stakes are much greater. SMB inherently has this element of risk/reward that drives them to make business decisions quicker. The topic of “access vs. security” balance is often discussed within the ECM industry and the truth is that you have to find a balance of making information available to users, yet also making sure the data is protected in a responsible manner. SMB that does not have dedicated IT resources can utilize “the cloud” to improve business efficiency at minimal costs and trust that security is taken care of by their storage provider.
There are many wonderful solutions available right now for businesses of all sizes to benefit from “the cloud”. For example, for an organization to migrate e-mail, CRM, expense management, document management, corporate web site and an accounting system to 100% cloud today is do-able. With known monthly operating expense costs and no IT burden. Also, these cloud applications are not cheesy, cheap applications; these are robust, Enterprise-ready applications that are now made available to everyone which are easy to use and secure.
What do you think about “the cloud”? Is it a fad? Will it be embraced by Enterprise? Is it secure?
Economies of scale: Cloud processing
Document Capture technology has been available for many years and is a proven method to decrease operational costs and improve business efficiency. However, this technology has traditionally been expensive to purchase, implement and deploy.
In organizations, small or large, Information Technology systems are comprised of similar components: Hardware, software and services. The emergence of Cloud Computing offers a new method to provide workers with technology such as Advanced Data Capture that was traditionally only available to Enterprise organizations due to high cost and technical complexity. Now organizations of all sizes, in many different industries can benefit with the Economies of Scale with Cloud Processing as a service.
Businesses purchase computer hardware as a resource for workers to get their jobs accomplished. As it relates to data capture from paper documents specifically, more than ever these businesses can benefit from advances in technology. For example, most smart phones today are equipped with cameras that are capable as acting as a portable image acquisition device. Or, to capture higher volumes of documents a business might choose to purchase dedicated scanners or use the office copy machine’s scanning functionality. The point-is that there is still a certain amount of equipment that a business needs to function.
The fast-growing popularity of Cloud-based storage also makes Advanced Data Capture as a cloud service extremely logically and quite complimentary. There are billions of users currently using some form of cloud storage whether it be business users of applications such as Salesforce.com, or social networks such as Facebook or hybrid applications such as LinkedIn. Additionally, and especially with the undeniable trend of using mobile devices for business data consumption, it only makes perfect sense to allow these devices to also contribute information easily via advanced data capture. Consuming information on mobile devices is easy but to add a business contact, for example, is difficult and frustrating with small display sizes and awkward virtual software-only keyboards.
One of the most logical services to utilize Cloud Computing is Data Capture. Why? Data Capture is a service and with cloud computing an organization can ‘rent’ this service as a shared resource. Since data capture doesn’t store images or information, then it’s ideal for sharing this resource and, therefore lowering the cost to use this service.
Cloud Capture is appealing for many reasons.
First, it allows small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to finally realize the benefits of Advanced Data Capture by sharing resources. This reduces total ownership costs to the organization because these companies ‘rent’ this data capture service. Secondly, it allows the organizations to quickly start utilizing this technology because they do not have to install, configure or maintain these services. This is all taken care of by the hosting company which allows organizations to focus on their core business instead of being burdened by supporting technology.
Additionally, a Cloud Capture platform is also appealing to Enterprise customers. Why? Within any large organization the business typically has many different departments such as Administrative, Marketing, Sales, Purchasing, Accounting and others. Also, the Information Technology (IT) department typically uses many software applications and services to support the business units. With the emergence of Cloud Computing and with more and more corporations moving applications to ‘the cloud’, one service that makes the most sense is Data Capture. Since Data Capture truly is ‘a service’ and does not store data permanently then capture technology infrastructure is ideal for Cloud Computing. Scalability to add additional capacity or seamlessly incorporate new services are added benefits.