WORKFLOW IN THE CLOUD
In addition to using the cloud for storage and servers, there are a host of cloud-based applications that provide the opportunity to take many of the most common workflow components of publishing off the desktop and put them into the cloud. Adobe Creative Cloud, for instance, takes Adobe Creative Suite-the industry standard for publication design and production, including the programs Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign-and provides users with access, updates, and storage for the full suite of programs via the cloud through a membership-subscription pricing model. Adobe Creative Cloud combats some of the long-held apprehension that some cloud-resistant observers have expressed, in that users of the service actually download all of the Creative Cloud programs to their computers and run them offline from their desktops, as opposed to relying on an internet-connected computer to run the applications from a web browser.
While the necessity of online access is one of the stronger concerns of some publishers as they consider making the switch to the cloud, Pubsoft's Cameron points out that, when it comes to those cloud services that do rely on an internet connection, access to connectivity is not the issue it used to be. "I never would have thought 5 years ago that the majority of my emails would be sent through Google apps on a cloud-based browser application," Cameron says. "Internet connectivity and access has increased 1,000 fold in the span of my professional career. Most people I know, myself included, rely on the cloud for nearly all entertainment: music, TV, movies, and books."
Robert Rose, chief strategist at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), points out that cloud services allow small publishing operations to start up whole new facets of their workflow-or, indeed, whole new ventures-in as long as it takes to download a few applications from the cloud. "Whether you look at true software-as-a-service providers or even traditionally installed applications now offered through the cloud," Rose says, "the move has helped those that are interested in starting up new web content platforms do so much more quickly."
Andrea Fleck Nisbet is the executive director of digital publishing at Workman Publishing Co. She has shepherded her company into the digital age by leading the integration of a wide variety of cloud-based systems into their workflow. "We use several cloud-based applications, both paid and unpaid," Fleck Nesbit says. "Among them are Ingram's CoreSource systems for digital asset management and distribution, Google Docs and ... Basecamp for project management, NetGalley for digital ARC [advance reader copy] distribution, RackSpace cloud hosting for our websites, and we are currently migrating from Book Connect to Firebrand for title management and production scheduling."
Fleck Nisbet points to ease of implementation and flexibility as the key virtues of cloud-based systems. "Cloud-based applications can provide small publishers with flexible tools that can be quickly and easily implemented and altered without a lot of internal infrastructure or the need to rely on larger publishers for distribution," she says.
SECURITY IN THE CLOUD
As with any large-scale change in business technology practice, it is important to keep in mind the primary concerns that all of your organization's stakeholders are likely to have with any new system. TCS' Wicker makes the point that the security of data is always on the minds of the key decision makers in any media company. "There's always going to be someone out there, some crook, some terrorist, who will be able to push past any wall that your vendor puts up if that individual is really looking to get through," Wicker says. "However, that is the case with private software as well."
Pubsoft's Cameron believes that some of the apprehension around security is misplaced, but he goes on to point out that it is up to the driver of any new implementation to understand the concerns of his colleagues and assuage them by listening to them and providing them with as much information as possible.
"Migrating a company from a physical, on-site solution to a cloud-based solution has the perception of loss," Cameron says. "Some people feel like the lack of on-site access to a server will cost the company in security and downtime. In reality, the opposite is true. Cloud-based solutions are more secure and have higher uptime performance than on-site solutions. Regardless, this perception can be a difficult organizational barrier to overcome. Leadership knowing employees and what they are comfortable with and balancing that with what the leadership knows is the correct path for the company will ultimately result in the best adoption. Companies need to know what will work with employees and what will not."
IS THE CLOUD RIGHT FOR YOU?
When it comes to deciding what types of cloud-based solutions will work for your company and how deeply you want to immerse yourself in the cloud, it comes down to one primary question: Who are you? "Whether you're a company of two or three people or an organization of thousands, the primary factor that should influence your decision to implement cloud-based solutions is what you are trying to achieve and how that corresponds to who you are and what you have the capability to do," says TCS' Wicker.
Cloud-based services provide more opportunities for much smaller companies than ever before to be able to host, store, and manage all of the elements of their publication workflow, but that does not necessarily mean that the smaller you are, the more the cloud will be of value to you. "Cloud-based systems can be flexible and save money, but they are only valuable if they address a specific need within your organization and are properly implemented," says Workman Publishing's Fleck Nisbet. "It's important to understand the issues that are trying to be solved by implementing a cloud-based system and how the existing systems and workflows will be impacted before starting."
CMI's Rose advises that publishers consider the scope of what they're trying to achieve as they decide whether cloud-based applications are the right fit for their organization. "You really need to understand how you want to manage technology for publishing going forward," Rose says. "On one hand, if you truly do have (and it's exceedingly rare) a unique situation where you need to build something that literally no one else can manage"-for instance, highly original and technologically complex products such as Amazon and eBay-"then you will almost certainly want to build a technical team to create that for you. But on the other hand, if you're just building microsites or blogs for marketing purposes, a full-service cloud service might be better for you. Most use cases are somewhere in between of course. But that's the real key: understanding where you fit on that spectrum."
Finding the right balance between cloud-based and non-cloud-based solutions is also an important assessment to make during the decision-making process. "You might use a CMS on the cloud that helps you get your content out," TCS' Wicker says, "but you might decide that a business systems service on the cloud that handles your invoicing is not a good fit for your company. Volume is the key factor. How many iterations of any given task are you doing and at what point will it overwhelm you enough that spending the resources to automate it will be worth your while."
At the end of the day, Wicker says, there's one final factor that all publications must keep in mind when considering how to go about the business of publishing. "Applications, technology, and computing are all components of publishing, but at its core, publishing is about producing good content for a profit. There is no software on the cloud, on your desktop, or anywhere that will get you a good book or a good magazine," he says.
The old adage once again seems to hold true: Content is king. In order to best be able to understand how to tell your story-and indeed, the cloud is becoming a more and more reliable place to locate the tools that it takes to bring your story to the widest possible audience-you first need to be sure that you know what your story is and that you are telling it well.