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KnowledgeTree, a provider of cloud-based document management solutions based in Raleigh, North Carolina, today announced that customers on their enterprise payment plan will be able to download copies of documents, workflows and associated metadata for local backup.

As Krish noted over on CloudAve when the company recently announced their single sign-on capability, these are hardly groundbreaking advances. They are, however, important incremental enhancements and an indication of growing product maturity. To move beyond early adopters and niche use cases, ‘basic’ features such as integration with enterprise identity management processes and effective – tangible, almost – backup procedures are simply essential.

According to the release,

“With this feature, customer content is available for immediate download via secure HTTP, FTP and rsync connections, ensuring a quick and efficient backup. Downloads are encrypted and password-protected. Documents, while still available anytime and anywhere via the cloud, can now have backup versions housed on an organization’s own servers.”

This new backup capability goes further than the product’s existing ability to offer ZIP downloads of customer documents, as it preserves workflow, audit trails, and associated metadata.

I spoke with CEO Daniel Chalef ahead of the announcement, to learn a little more about the company’s direction. He was, of course, keen to stress that provision of this download capability should in no way be seen as a reflection on the robustness of either the Cloud or KnowledgeTree’s own (Amazon S3-powered) infrastructure. Rather, Chalef pointed to the continuing (mis-?) perception that auditory and compliance requirements may more easily be met by companies that are able to lay their hands upon local copies of key data.

With a focus upon customers in legal, financial and HR-type roles, KnowledgeTree has transitioned from providing on-premise solutions toward a mixed economy in which the product is available as either Software as a Service (SaaS), or as an on-premise installation typically addressed toward larger customers. The SaaS offering is updated on a 3-4 week release cycle, with the traditional on-premise version updated more slowly. A new version is due early in 2011, which will bring feature parity with the current SaaS release. Chalef argued that the company continues to grow both branches of the product, but I can’t help wondering how long it will truly remain cost-effective to offer – and maintain – both?

Chalef suggests that the company’s focus upon providing turn-key solutions designed to address the needs of its defined customer groups differentiates it from the competition. These, he argues, are primarily SugarCRM and Microsoft Sharepoint, both of which tend to present rather more of a blank canvas upon which customers (or VARs) are expected to build. A turn-key solution, especially deployed from the Cloud, should enable customers to realise value from their investment relatively quickly. The more significant investment in on-premise installations, bespoke development and VAR engagement may result in eventual cost savings or better alignment with business requirements, but it’s a long-term – and risky – bet. Press Releases over the past few months suggest that KnowledgeTree continues to innovate, fleshing out the feature set on a product that shows no sign of slowing.