But where to start when choosing a tool for document organization? After all, there are a large number of different systems and providers. This guide will help potential users understand the basics of a document management system and choose the right document management system.
How a Document Management System Works
These are some of the most important document management features:
- Store different types of documents, including word processing files, e-mail, PDFs and spreadsheets
- Keyword search
- Find documents in seconds
- Authorized access to specific documents
- Monitoring tools to determine which users are accessing which documents
- Versioning tools that track changes to documents and restore old versions
- Monitoring when obsolete documents can be deleted
- Support for mobile devices to access, edit and exchange documents
- Security features protect documents from unauthorized access or modification
- Workflow functions facilitate tedious manual processes such as document storage through automation
- File backup and disaster recovery
The selection of the right document management software starts with a precise assessment of the organizational requirements. One of the biggest decisions that needs to be made at the outset is whether a local or cloud-based document management system is desired. Both systems offer the same functionality, but there are some significant differences in the way the DMS software performs maintenance and stores data.
Local Document Management System
If a local solution is preferred for document organization, a separate server is required for storing the documents. This also means that the company is responsible for the maintenance, security and backup of the data (unless the software and the server are installed locally by an external company). This option is usually useful for larger companies with dedicated IT resources due to the higher technical requirements. In return, the organization has direct control over its own system. The provider's technical support and software updates are usually dependent on the continuous renewal of the annual subscription package of DMS software.
Benefits: With a self-hosted document management system, an organization always has full control over the system, which is certainly one of the biggest advantages. It does not have to rely on the provider to keep the system running. This document organization is also not dependent on the Internet. Even if the online connection is interrupted, access to all documents remains available.
Disadvantages: The disadvantages of this document organization are the high upfront costs for hardware and the additional annual costs for software updates. In addition, it must be ensured that a proper backup system is in place, as the files are not automatically stored in the cloud. It is also possible that not all self-hosted DMSs work with both Windows and Mac computers. Many are only compatible with one of the operating and file systems. In addition, a dedicated server requires a suitable place in the company where hardware can be operated safely and which is not accessible to everyone for security reasons.
Cloud-based document management system
Cloud-based DMS software is hosted by a provider and made available to a company online. A monthly or annual fee is usually charged for this organization of documents, which includes all maintenance and software updates. Depending on the system chosen, the storage space and the features required, the price for cloud-based systems can vary greatly.
A document management system is essentially an electronic filing cabinet. Based on this system, a company can organize all digital and paper documents. Any documents can be uploaded directly into the document management system using a scanner. In a document management system, users can enter metadata and tags that can be used to organize all stored files.
Most document management programs have a built-in search engine that allows users to quickly navigate even the largest document libraries to access the file they need. Special permission settings ensure that only authorized people can access the documents.
Advantages: The main advantages of this solution are that no dedicated IT team is required to install and properly operate the software. In addition, there are no high upfront costs for the necessary hardware, which also requires a corresponding space on the company premises. People with access rights can access the document management system from any location with Internet access. This pays off especially when there are a lot of out-of-office appointments. The company does not have to worry about backing up data, as this is done automatically by the cloud provider. This provider is also responsible for legal aspects within the backup process.
Disadvantages: With a cloud-based document management system, companies are bound to a provider who keeps the system running. If this provider has a problem with its data center, for example, a company may not be able to access the files until the situation is resolved. Even if the Internet connection fails, there is no access to the data.
What to look for in a document management system
When choosing a document management system and document management software, there are some important features to consider. First of all, the needs should be discussed in detail, the technical specifications should be defined and prices should be compared. A good document management software should offer the following possibilities:
- File structure: The system should offer a sensible and user-friendly file structure, such as a cabinet-drawer-folder approach.
- Search: The document management software should provide a variety of options to quickly find files. Searching should not only be based on the file name, but preferably also on the contents of a file, the date of last modification, the file type and many other criteria.
- Usability: The DMS software should be easy to use for the employees. If the navigation with the DMS software is too difficult, it disturbs the daily processes and can lead to confusion.
- Mobile access: The document management system should also be accessible via smartphones and tablets.
- Integration: The system should be easily integrated with the programs already in use in the company, such as e-mail clients and customer management software.
- Scanning: The DMS software should be compatible with a variety of scanners.
- Security: The document management software should be able to restrict the circle of people and determine who can see certain folders and files. The company should be able to set access permissions for individual employees or work groups.
Government regulations require the storage and maintenance of various types of data and documents. The requirements are often very complex. Good document management software helps to ensure compliance with the rules by using checklists, standard forms and automatic organization.
Conclusion: For the administration of documents, an electronic document management system is a great advantage, if only for cost reasons. Documents can contain trade secrets and other confidential data such as product formulas or personal data of employees. If unauthorized persons gain access to these documents, this can lead to business or legal damage. A document management system ensures that only authorized persons can access certain documents.
NOTE: The behavior and procedures described in the text are examples of document management software and do not describe a specific product of PLATO AG.