ECM Synchronization: What to Expect
When thinking about synchronization there are few things that come to mind. The most common is what is referred to as a consumer sync. This is a process such as taking a picture on a mobile device and automatically having that photo synced to a designated cloud storage space. Because the device is connected to an existing Wi-Fi network, it is immediately available in a file-sharing system. It is a simple procedure, making it easy to assume that all types of synchronizations are similarly straightforward. However, it is important to remember a consumer sync is one that is done typically for personal fulfillment. There is another side to synchronization when it comes to businesses and their need to manage millions of documents. ECM systems have a much more complex structure, and there are many more problems that can arise when syncing content. We have compiled a list of points pulled from one of our most popular white papers, “Navigating the Hurdles of Synchronization” to create a need-to-know list of what to expect when syncing.
1. As mentioned above, it is important to remember that a sync for an ECM system differs a lot from one that happens in the consumer world. An ECM synchronization takes place to archive a company’s records or to provide controlled access to content. Often organizations, such as law firms, have sensitive documents in their archives, so it is vital to have control over where content is going and who can see it during a synchronization.
2. When looking at the organization of an ECM system, there are many more layers than just files in a folder hierarchy. While the system is organized in what on the surface seems to be a simple file structure, it really has many complex parts that work together to assist in tasks like quick searches and project containers, and a single document may be referenced in more than one location. The complexity of a single file in an ECM system goes as far as having customized metadata to assist in categorizing and classifying documents. It is also important to note that the way in which metadata is assigned to files varies depending on the system itself. In some cases, only one set of metadata is allowed, whereas in others, multiple sets are permitted, so when synchronizing the various sets of documents and their metadata, there must be a robust mapping capability within the ECM system. This will ensure that any changes, whether it be updating to a newer version or modifying the security settings, made to a file are recognized and generated in the system.
3. Companies will often use their ECM systems as a repository that allows internal access to their files. In many cases, accessing company content is secured to those only within the organization, but a synchronization can be set up to publish a subset of data from the system for external users. In addition, content that is created outside of the ECM system can still be archived into the company’s repository during a synchronization, which helps to maintain overall security as well as information governance.
4. Another significant part to synchronization is the recent adoption of cloud-based file sharing systems. The difference between these and a traditional ECM is the user interface that can be accessed on almost any device, as well as the ability to collaborate both internally and externally. A positive to both systems is that they can be used in parallel, taking the structure and security of an ECM and pairing it with mobility of a cloud-based system. By syncing data bidirectionally between the two, content is transparent, and changes are translated over into both systems.
5. With the ever-changing world of technology, ECM is not on its own anymore. There are many specialty systems, like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, that are being used for specific purposes. What is most important is that these non-content management systems can also collect and manage data, so syncing must be able to account for content stored in the ECM system, as well as any others.
6. Adaptation is one of the most vital parts of any successful synchronization. ECMs must account for all the changes that happen within the system. Some support event driven models where a receiver is notified of changes as they happen, and others maintain a change log that records any modifications to a database. The first option allows for synchronization to happen almost immediately, whereas the latter requires a scheduled sync that polls all systems to detect where changes need to be propagated. To ensure total efficiency, the sync engine needs to consider all three of these functions: events, change logs, and polls.
Accomplishing a successful synchronization is not an easy task. There is a big difference in an everyday consumer sync and a company-wide ECM sync. By keeping in mind the information provided above, creating an effective synchronization plan does not have to be overly complicated. To find out more information about how SeeUnity’s Echo Content Synchronization product can help, visit the Solutions for Organizations page or our Content Sync Success Stories on our website.