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Records management in the cloud: a multidimensional issue

This article appears in the issue May 2015, [Volume 24, Issue 5]
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More information than ever is being stored in the cloud, with the increasing use of cloud-based e-mail, content from mobile devices that have limited storage capacity and the continual accumulation of digital data in general. Competition among cloud storage providers for customers is intense, as evidenced by Microsoft’s promise last year of unlimited low-cost cloud storage. But as information accumulates, what happens when a file in the cloud needs to be classified and managed as a record? The answer is not simple.

The applications that first brought file sharing into the cloud had little or no records management capability; conversely, the rich-featured enterprise content management (ECM) and records management (RM) software products were not configured for cloud architectures. However, the advantages of cloud storage will drive its expanding use and the need for records management in that environment.

Different models for cloud storage create different scenarios for records management. “The biggest area for managing cloud content is e-mail from Google or Microsoft Exchange Online,” says Stephen Ludlow, director of enterprise product marketing at OpenText. “This content originates in the cloud but is brought back to an on-premise repository for records management.”

Another option is for a hosted cloud solution, in which case the content and the records management function are both in the cloud. Finally, with a hybrid solution, the records management software remains on premise, while content can be either in the cloud or on premise.

OpenText was an early entrant in managing cloud content, introducing a records management software product for Microsoft’s Azure cloud in 2008. “Records that are accessed frequently can be kept on premise,” says Ludlow, “and then if a record has not been accessed for two years, it can be passed over to Azure, where storage is cheaper.” The metadata management and search functions stay on premise, while the files are stored in the cloud.

SharePoint RM options

SharePoint and SharePoint Online have some records management capability, but the features are limited. Companies such as Gimmal and Collabware offer third-party extensions that allow full records management capability including auto-declaration and auto-classification.

“A tremendous amount of SharePoint data is going to the cloud,” says Scott McVeigh, director of information governance and compliance at Paragon Solutions, a consulting and systems integration firm. “But in many companies, records management is an afterthought. We work with companies on developing policies, as well as training on awareness and implementation of records management.”

Records365 from RecordPoint is a cloud-compliant records management solution built for Office 365. “Records365 is a SaaS product, so organizations simply sign up for the service and configure their rules and policies,” says Anthony Woodward, CTO of RecordPoint. Records365 provides features that seamlessly control and automate records management for Office 365, One Drive and other shared networks. “The Records365 rules engine uses data in Office 365 to understand the records context,” Woodward says, “and matches this data with compliance policies to automate records classification.” The rules can be located either in the cloud or on premise.

In addition, RecordPoint offers a traditional records management solution, also called RecordPoint, for on-premise or hybrid environments of SharePoint. The enterprise solution extends the native records management capabilities of SharePoint. RecordPoint plans to release its Connector Suite this year for both RecordPoint software and Records365. The offering will enable records management of repositories beyond SharePoint and Office 365, including unstructured content from social media applications such as FaceBook, Twitter and Yammer.

RecordPoint’s software products can manage information that originates at endpoints such as mobile devices and can extract information for e-discovery if needed. “We are now bringing on our first customers on top of Microsoft Azure,” says Woodward, “which has been a smooth transition because of our tight integration with Microsoft’s products.”

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