Private Cloud Choices Grow For SMBs - InformationWeek

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11/29/2011
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Private Cloud Choices Grow For SMBs

Public cloud-wary midsize businesses can leverage KnowledgeTree's document management tools for online file sharing and storage.

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Companies that want to embrace online file sharing and storage--but can't shake the cold sweats when it comes to public, multitenant platforms--have a new option. KnowledgeTree has added a private cloud version of its online document management platform.

KnowledgeTree's growing customer base is mostly made up of midsize firms and departments within large enterprises, the latter of which CEO Daniel Chalef likens to small companies operating within their organizations. That approach can be a contrast to some of the better-known names in cloud file sharing and backup, such as Dropbox, that cast a wider net for consumers and "prosumers"--even if their services ultimately end up in corporate use.

KnowledgeTree often appeals to "line of business" users--those that toil in legal, human resources, finance, and other backoffice functions that deal in sensitive information, sometimes with the added burden of regulatory compliance. As a result, its features are specifically tailored to business use-cases--rather than requiring a post-consumerization retrofit. Chalef groups common KnowledgeTree uses under the header of "document-led processes." In plain English: Those behind-the-scenes, sometimes tedious tasks--and the corresponding paperwork those tasks generate--that many businesses simply can't do without.

"Those could be everything from managing a budget cycle to onboarding new employees or customers, to developing marketing material, or contract management," Chalef said in an interview, adding that many of those functions share similar challenges in monitoring and managing document lifecycles. That has underpinned KnowledgeTree's raison d'etre to date. Features such as document aging alerts are geared to that type of usage, though the company has also put a good bit of development behind social collaboration and analytics tools of late.

[ Looking for a new service provider? See SMBs Get Help Finding Best Vendors. ]

The decision to offer a virtualized private cloud deployment of its existing document management platform--which is offered in public, multi-tenant fashion--was driven by a segment of customers and prospects asking for an on-premises option. Chalef said it wasn't a huge number of requests, but enough that KnowledgeTree decided to launch a private virtual appliance version of its multitenant application.

Though Chalef is careful--wisely, given his company's core product--not to cast doubt about the security of public clouds, he acknowledged that some companies might find the private cloud option soothes organizational fears around trusting critical data and documents to multitenant environments.

"Some users would still prefer, for certain use cases, to have something on-premises," Chalef said. "It is sometimes rooted in a security concern, despite the fact that we're very confident that the [public] KnowledgeTree service is a very secure place to put your content."

A potential tradeoff for those that choose KnowledgeTree's private cloud option instead of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model: It will present some integration issues with other cloud applications. "One of the challenges for the private cloud offering is that it isn't as easy to leverage some of our built-in integration with other SaaS applications, by virtue of being deployed behind the firewall," Chalef said.

Sensitive customer and business data is scattered in hidden corners of your infrastructure. Find and protect it before it winds up in the wrong hands. Also in the new issue of Dark Reading: The practical side of data defense. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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