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Articles

Managing content in highly regulated industries: Navigating the cloud transition

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Author
Michael Yacone, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Viewpointe

In an era where effective data management is paramount, the transition to cloud content services is more than a technological upgrade. This shift goes beyond keeping pace with technological advancements — it involves leveraging the power of the cloud to help ensure data security, maintain regulatory compliance, drive operational efficiency, and enhance cost effectiveness. Thus, harnessing the cloud’s power becomes a strategic imperative for highly regulated industries like banking, insurance, and healthcare. 

This article is intended to offer a roadmap for businesses preparing to navigate the complexities of a cloud transition, positioning them to thrive in a landscape where managing information securely and cost effectively is a necessity for success.

The rise of cloud content services and managed content service providers

Cloud content services started gaining significant popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s, driven by advancements in internet technology and the introduction of major cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. The shift towards more scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solutions, along with the rise of distributed workforces and remote working, contributed to this trend. Furthermore, the growing need for efficient data storage and analytics due to the surge in data generation, coupled with the heightened focus on security and compliance, further accelerated the adoption of cloud services. By the early 2010s, cloud content services had become a mainstream solution across various industries. 

This transition facilitated a broader exploration of the benefits offered by managed content solution providers, such as Viewpointe. These providers offer specialized expertise, services, and have built a managed solution on top of one or all major cloud platforms. 

Let us delve into the substantial benefits of having a cloud managed content services provider.

Benefits of using cloud managed content services providers

  • Enhanced data security and compliance: Providers tend to invest in advanced security measures such as encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. This level of security is often more robust than what individual organizations can achieve on their own. Furthermore, managed content solution providers can have added functionalities tailored to specific regulations making it easier for regulated industries to follow legal requirements. 
  • Cost efficiency, scalability, and flexibility: Migrating to a cloud managed content services provider can be a cost-effective solution compared to maintaining and operating a traditional data management system using a fixed cost on-premises infrastructure. Their pay-as-you-go model offers predictability and cost savings. Additionally, they can allow organizations the flexibility to adjust their data storage and resources as needed, beneficial for industries with fluctuating demands.  
  • Business agility: Cloud managed services providers can enable businesses to respond swiftly to market changes, regulatory updates, or evolving customer needs. This agility can be achieved through the rapid deployment of new applications and quick adaptation to increased data demands. 
  • Improved data accessibility and collaboration: Providers can enable remote access to data. Employees in different departments or geographical locations can access, share, and work on documents. This level of collaboration boosts productivity, as teams can work together more efficiently without the delays of traditional data-sharing methods. 
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity: Cloud managed content services providers often include robust backup and disaster recovery solutions. This helps to ensure that in the event of a hardware failure, cyberattack, or natural disaster, data remains secure and can be quickly restored, with little or no impact on business operations. 
  • Automated updates and maintenance: Providers can handle the on-going maintenance and updating of systems, to help ensure that the latest security patches and software updates are implemented promptly. This reduces the burden on companies’ internal IT staff and minimizes vulnerabilities. 
  • Regulatory auditing and reporting: Many cloud managed content services providers will offer tools for audit trails, logging, and reporting. As a result, these tools simplify the process of demonstrating compliance with industry-specific regulations during audits. 
  • Enhanced data analytics and insights: Providers can offer advanced data analytics tools, enabling organizations to leverage their data for better decision-making and strategic planning. This is particularly beneficial where data-driven insights can lead to improved customer experiences, risk management, and operational efficiency. 

Understanding these benefits is important to select the right solution provider, which we will discuss next.  

Critical requirements for choosing the right solution provider

Adhering to strict regulatory standards is not just a best practice, but a legal necessity. Therefore, when regulated industries consider cloud managed content services providers, several requirements must be met for compliance, security, and operational integrity.

Data protection and privacy

All confidential customer data, both in transit and at rest, should be encrypted using the latest encryption standards. This helps to ensure that sensitive information remains protected from unauthorized access or breaches. 

Cloud managed content services providers can help companies comply with laws regarding data sovereignty, which often require data to be stored within specific geographic locations. This is particularly important for companies based in countries with strict data residency laws. 

In addition, providers can include more stringent privacy controls to help organizations manage access to sensitive data, so that only authorized personnel can view or modify it. This is especially critical in industries such as healthcare, where patient data privacy is governed by regulations like HIPAA.

Compliance management tools

The cloud managed content solution provider should align with industry-specific regulations (like HIPAA or SOX). This includes providing features that support compliance. 

The solution provider should offer comprehensive audit trails and easy-to-generate reports to track access and changes to data. This capability is useful for regulatory audits and compliance checks. Given that regulatory environments are dynamic, cloud managed content services providers can update their services to help companies comply with the latest legal changes that related to a given industry.

Reliability and uptime

Given the reliance on continuous data access in these sectors, high availability and agreed upon uptime requirements are imperative, as any downtime or data loss can have significant repercussions on operations, client services, and regulatory compliance. The cloud managed content services provider should offer effective disaster recovery capabilities and system redundancy which are essential to minimal service disruption in the event of system failures. Additionally, a provider should be conducting continuous performance monitoring and resolve any issues quickly to maintain uninterrupted and efficient service.

Additional security measures

Your cloud managed content services provider should do regular security testing and vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks. The physical security of the data centers where the cloud servers are located is also vital. Their services should include measures like surveillance, controlled access, and protection against environmental hazards. Additionally, strong user authentication protocols, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls, help ensure that access to sensitive content is tightly regulated and monitored. 

For regulated industries, these critical requirements are not just features but fundamental necessities. The cloud managed content services provider’s ability to meet these requirements determines their suitability for handling sensitive, regulated content.

10 Best practices for moving to cloud managed content services providers

For regulated companies transitioning to cloud managed content services, following these best practices can help make it a smooth, secure, and compliant move. These practices cover a range of strategic and operational aspects: 

1. Do a comprehensive risk assessment

Conduct a thorough risk assessment to understand the security, compliance, and operational risks associated with moving to the cloud. This assessment should include data privacy, data sovereignty, and potential vulnerabilities. 

2. Define essential criteria for solution providers

Look at what criteria you need the provider to meet and how it will be measured. Are there special requirements or standard contract? Many of your company’s requirements will be around compliance and security measures. For instance, the need to implement robust security measures including encryption, access controls, and multi-factor authentication. 

3. Develop strategic planning and clear objectives

Create a clear plan that outlines the goals, budget, timelines, and responsibilities for the transition. Establish key objectives such as compliance requirements, cost savings, improved efficiency, or enhanced security. The cloud managed content services provider can help you form the budget based on similar client experiences. 

4. Select the right solution provider

Choose a cloud managed content services provider with a strong track record of moving similar clients to the cloud. Make sure they offer the necessary compliance certifications, and data protection standards, and have a robust security infrastructure. Reviews and testimonials from other clients, especially those in similar regulated industries, can reveal the provider’s strengths and weaknesses. Understanding their experience in handling industry-specific challenges can be a good indicator of the provider’s suitability.   

5. Implement phased approach

A phased approach allows for the validation of configurations and settings on a smaller scale before continuing to a full-scale implementation. 

6. Provide training and change management

Offer comprehensive training for employees on the new systems. Address the change management aspects by over-communicating the benefits and improvements in workflows that the cloud services will bring.  

7. Execute secure data migration strategy

Ensure that data is encrypted during transfer and that integrity checkpoints are in place. Be clear about what data will move to the cloud and what might remain on-premises. 

8. Develop disaster recovery and business continuity plans

Create or leverage your existing disaster recovery plan that includes data backup and recovery processes. Verify that the cloud managed content services provider’s disaster recovery capabilities align with your organization’s needs. 

9. Manage vendors and service level agreements (SLAs)

Relationships with providers can be managed successfully through clear SLAs that define expectations for uptime, performance, and support. Use tools provided by your cloud managed content services provider for monitoring, alerts, and reporting. Conduct regular audits to help ensure continuous compliance with regulatory requirements and internal policies. Adjust policies and procedures as necessary based on audit findings. 

10. Stay informed about regulatory changes and involve your provider right away

Keep abreast of changes in regulations that might affect cloud services and adjust your strategies and processes accordingly. You will want to keep your provider updated on these changes so they can be integrated into your program.  

By following these best practices, regulated companies can effectively manage the risks and maximize the benefits of transitioning to cloud managed content services.

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