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ECM and SaaS: How Strong a Marriage?

The SaaS (Software as a Service) computing model has been garnering attention recently. With this approach, companies no longer have to maintain servers and run a data center. In certain cases, they can reduce their IT expenses and roll out new services very quickly. Because of the potential benefits, it has gained traction in market segments, such as CRM. However, acceptance has been slow to take hold in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space, although a couple of vendors are trying to change the status quo.

ECM systems have become popular for a couple of reasons. Corporate data is on the move: employees generate information on an ever expanding variety of small, powerful devices, such as laptops, netbooks, and smartphones. Information also has taken a growing number of forms, such as databases, text documents, forms, images, and Web content.

In addition, a widening array of regulations requires that companies monitor and manage their information effectively. "Many corporations are struggling with questions, such as 'What information do I need to keep?' and 'Where can I store it?'," stated Kathleen Reidy, a senior analyst with market research firm the 451 Group. ECM products can help answer those questions because they provide a central repository for company data.

However, some of these products' roots stretch back a decade or two, so they cannot be easily transformed to SaaS solutions. As a result, many of the well known ECM suppliers have not yet embraced this model. Instead, vendors, such as Hyland Software, SpringCRM and Xythos Software are pushing SaaS options into the marketplace.

There are a number of reasons why companies may be interested in this option, starting with money. ECM systems are quite expensive, prices usually start at $100,000 and often race past the $1 million mark, depending on a system's breadth and complexity.  With a SaaS solution, a company can avoid the upfront costs that come with a new deployment. Consequently, they may be able to get an ECM project off the ground even though money is tight.

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