Enterprises across the planet are now in the cloud. According to 2021 data from Flexera, 99% of organizations use at least one public or private cloud. The move to the cloud is not about to happen; it is already underway. But the move is not linear, uniform, or consistent in many organizations. Cloud solutions are driving scalable & secure enterprise applications but in disconnected, often siloed applications located on different clouds.
One way to reduce the challenge of multi-cloud architectures is to find a cloud that can cater to multiple use cases, offering the enterprise the ability to consolidate and commit to a single platform. Ninety-five percent (95%) of Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft Azure to do precisely this. Azure provides the perfect platform to build, deploy, and manage simple to complex applications with ease — offering IT departments a wide range of programming languages, frameworks, operating systems, databases, and devices, allowing enterprises to leverage tools and technologies they trust.
But what about using Azure to house and power your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems? Corporate information management has been gradually moving to the cloud over the past years, but this has been in a patchwork manner. Many legacy ECM vendors have provided substandard cloud-based offerings to date, and newer entrants have lacked the breadth of functionality required by enterprises to persuade them to commit.
Yet Microsoft Azure seems set to change this. In this blog, we explore six of the key reasons why organizations should be seriously looking at Azure as the perfect platform for building their information management, governance, and liberation capabilities for now and the future.
The Limitless Repository
Key benefits of using cloud services include the power, scale, and speed available — and Azure provides all of those. From an ECM perspective, the cloud can act as a limitless repository in terms of power, scale, and speed but also from a storage standpoint. Enterprises, by definition, have a lot of information to store, whether invoices, HR content, marketing materials, financial data, or design diagrams. Having a limitless repository to store that ever-growing mass of content makes perfect sense — almost like a hard disk that never fills up.
But as you add more content, the demands placed on the platform to index, search, and control that content grows in parallel. A core benefit of Azure as a platform is that it can scale along each of these dimensions in line with the overall business needs but also the specific application needs.
For example, a manufacturing firm might have vast archives of very large CAD diagrams which are accessed infrequently. In this case, the requirement is for massive amounts of storage but not a huge processing element. Conversely, an online insurance provider may not have large content storage requirements but needs immediate responses to large quantities of online applications just after their TV ad airs during football halftime.
The flexibility to deliver against both of these scenarios is a core benefit of the Azure platform for ECM.
Own Your Data
Owning your corporate data might sound like an obvious requirement for compliance, governance, and enterprise content security, but it does not come by default with all cloud-based ECM solutions (and it is certainly not by default with legacy on-premise ECM solutions). Thankfully within Azure, your data is your own, secured, segmented, and available only to you and the services you choose to share it with.
By default, data is not shared with advertiser-supported services nor mined for marketing research or advertising — again, this is not necessarily the case with certain cloud providers.
This aspect is critical. Azure allows you to choose the cloud services you wish to work with — only processing data with your agreement and only sharing data with your selected services.
In addition, the location of your data is equally carefully managed — indeed, you choose where to locate your corporate information. Microsoft has a global network of data centers, providing data residency capabilities across 60+ regions. For those organizations residing in certain geographies or needing to conform to specific compliance regulations, data sovereignty is critical for successful cloud operations. Azure offers tools to enable and control this need comprehensively.
Integration to the Microsoft Stack
Integration to other systems is an area that ECM has struggled with over the years. Seemingly simple things like integrations to the Microsoft Outlook and Office tools that many of us use daily have not been forthcoming, nor have connections to the new essential remote-working tools such as Teams.
However, as you might expect, Azure provides deep integration to all of these and the other Microsoft solutions in your environment, such as SharePoint, SQL Server, and Windows itself. This capability is critical when considering a cloud platform for ECM. Information does not live in silos in the modern business environment — it needs to be accessed, shared, viewed, and commented on. These interactions do not happen in the document management system but in the other tools and applications that users spend their day in — such as Outlook and Teams. The integrated nature of Azure provides the foundation for this.
But there is a deeper layer of integration that sometimes goes unseen. Many recognize SharePoint as the underlying foundation to MS Office, which in turn is the foundation for Teams. However, Azure underpins ALL of them. This level of integration delivers a seamless user experience and provides connectivity and consistency at a data and API level that opens up the platform for 3rd party tools such as KnowledgeLake to plug directly into and build on.
Integration beyond Microsoft
As we have discussed, ECM no longer sits alongside the business but must be integrated into other line-of-business software and applications to truly deliver. KnowledgeLake acts as the bridge that connects ECM to these systems, enabling cognitive capture, business process automation, and intelligent document processing. But housing your data, ECM systems, and overall business infrastructure on Azure gives you access to many more options to connect into other software and systems such as ERP, CRM, HRMS, CAD, and more.
Azure itself has a catalog of more than 17,000 certified apps and services, that deploy seamlessly and offer numerous options to integrate and utilize the content stored within your Azure-housed ECM system.
Breadth of Services
The availability of the thousands of apps and services discussed above offers a wide range of MS and partner-created utilities that leverage the Azure platform. These services provide tools to address just about any business need you can think of.
- AI and ML
- Analytics engines and reporting dashboards Website and content management
- CRM systems
- No code / low code development
- Messaging and mobile capabilities Blockchain Backup and disaster recovery
- Opensource tools including MongoDB Cassandra, MySQL, and Redis.
- Plus, industry solutions for financial services, government, manufacturing, healthcare, and many more.
Of course, intelligent document processing from KnowledgeLake is also one of the tightly integrated solutions that deploy seamlessly on top of Azure, taking full advantage of its power, scalability, pricing, and robustness. With each of these services integrating to the same underlying Azure infrastructure, connectivity between them and your Azure-based ECM solution becomes trivial but incredibly beneficial nonetheless.
Additionally, the level of investment from external vendors in building Azure-enabled services ensures an unparalleled breadth of capability and guarantees continued support for Azure as a platform.
Security and Compliance
Last but not least is the value of the security and compliance investment that Microsoft has made in Azure. To date, Microsoft has invested over one BILLION US Dollars in research and development around security and compliance. As a result, security is baked into Azure. Protection is delivered at a software level and across physical data centers, infrastructure, and operations, with human experts actively monitoring assets and data. It is hard for any one organization’s data center to match this hardened level of defense.
This deep focus on security is critical to many looking to finally move their ECM capabilities to the cloud, as security is often the number one concern with the move. To anyone with that concern today, I ask the genuine question – “Do you really think your internal security is better than that provided by Microsoft?”
Beyond baseline security, though, compliance regulations add additional nuances to ECM delivery in the Azure cloud. Of course, each industry has unique rules such as HIPAA for healthcare, FedRamp for Government, and SEC for financial services. But there are increasingly cross-industry regulations to consider such as SOC 1, 2, and 3 for cloud activities and GDPR and CCPA for data privacy.
Any organization deploying an ECM solution in the cloud must ensure that their appropriate compliance regulations are met — and Microsoft is well aware of that. Independent audit reports are available verifying that Azure adheres to numerous security, compliance, and privacy standards and regulations such as:
- ISO 27001
- ISO 27018
- SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC3
Compliance and regulatory frameworks are constantly changing, but the Azure cloud currently provides as robust a set of coverage in this space as any available to those looking to house ECM in the cloud.
As you can see, the Azure cloud has numerous attractive benefits to persuade organizations to select it as the platform of choice for information management in the cloud. The combination of a limitless repository, deep integration to both Microsoft and non-Microsoft services and applications, and comprehensive compliance and regulatory coverage makes a compelling argument. At KnowledgeLake, we have worked with Microsoft technologies for many years and firmly believe that Azure does indeed provide the perfect platform for ECM in the cloud.
But in true Hollywood style, we’ve saved the cliff-hanger till the end. Azure IS the perfect platform for ECM in the cloud— but it is NOT an enterprise content management solution in itself.