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Alfresco Brings its Open Source Document Management to the Cloud

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Alfresco started in 2005 and has been offering open enterprise content management (ECM) to an increasing number of clients to where they are now the largest open source content management company in the world. It contains a full set of content management features such as document and records management, workflow, version control, etc. I recently had a chance to speak with Todd Barr at Alfresco about their latest release: Alfresco Enterprise 4. This is the largest release of their content management platform in their history and contains a number of significant advancements.

In response to the changing market, they have added a cloud version to the existing on-premise offering. There are several significant aspects to this move. The cloud version (sign-up at cloud.alfresco.com) is truly Alfresco in the cloud, with the same user experience and core features as Alfresco Enterprise 4.   More importantly, though, Alfresco Enterprise 4 (on premise) and Alfresco in the cloud will be able to talk to teach other and synch content, based on company policies. There is also cloud-style scalability as they can handle hundreds of millions of documents for single organizations. They have also ungraded their UI to more consistent with rising expectations of consumers on the Web. You can see a sample screen below with a variety of features including recently modified documents, site members, calendar, activities, and more.

There is an emphasis on integration with other productivity apps. This is key today with the capabilities of open APIs. You need to be able to get applications talking with each other as I have covered several times (see for example: Integrating the Interactions with the Transactions). The theme of this new release is “cloud connected content” – which is their way of saying that there are many cloud apps out there for file sharing, and there are bunch of enterprise content management platforms that do the back end work. They have to be tied together for real productivity. I would certainly agree.

Another area of significance is the support for iPhones, Android, and iPads. Work is getting increasingly mobile so this is for any business application. This is critical as more mobile devices are now sold than laptops. If you look globally many areas have skipped the laptop era and moved into the computer age through smart phones. You can see a sample iPad screen below.

Alfresco has also brought in a focused set of social features.  They are not trying to become the all inclusive social networking platform but rather Alfresco uses social features to enhance content management, a good idea. For example you can like, comment and change documents. There is an activity stream that is focused around content. While you can manually add updates like Twitter, the bulk of the activity is from auto-generated updates that allow for an ambient awareness of the related content activity within you organization.

You can also do social publishing. You can push content directly to: Flickr, SlideShare, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and even twitter. With the latter you get a tweet that links to the actual content. All of this is done within Alfresco so you do not have to get directly involved with these other tools, saving time and simplifying the task.

The ability for the cloud version to synch with the enterprise version opens up some useful possibilities. You can bring in content from consumer Web apps through the cloud version into the enterprise. They also plan to expand this connection to include the proliferation of mobile apps. Todd actually had me download a version of the cloud app and for it I was able to easily download his presentation and the screen shots you see, taking email out of the equation. I like what I see. I think the Alfresco is making all the right moves for make use of the opportunities that the trio of social, mobile, and cloud offer.

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