Document Management for Beginners

Documents work like the brain cells of a company. They transmit vital information and keep the business humming along. This is why it’s critical to implement an intuitive, reliable, and secure document management system (DMS).

There are many advantages to an electronic filing system over paper files. These include easy and immediate access to critical files, freeing up office space for better uses, enhanced security, and a wealth of indexing and tagging options. These benefit every company, from small start-ups to continent-spanning businesses.

Let’s take a look at what document management is, how it works, and what features you may want to prioritize.

What Is Document Management?

Document management systems combine the functions of a filing cabinet, a dedicated employee to fetch and re-file papers, and a security system. All of these are in one integrated series of programs and devices. They fall under an umbrella strategy that balances efficiency with data security.

So what can these systems do? Your company’s document management solution can:

  • scan and digitize paper files
  • upload those digitized files to a database
  • add metadata tags and index files
  • attach documents to emails
  • secure information behind passwords, encryption, and more
  • monitor who accesses a file and when
  • direct files to a printer
  • run external applications
  • back up your data to a secure location
  • save user-generated content
  • search archived documents for keywords
  • offer remote access options for employees out of the office
  • and much more

How Does Document Management Work?

Document management may sound like a nebulous and complex system, but at its core, it offers document creation, storage, and retrieval solutions. This is the same information cycle that paper offices already use, just with extra speed and flexibility due to being digital.

First, the DMS creates an electronic document. This could be done via a program or by scanning and digitizing an existing paper file. Second, that e-document is stored in a central location. It might be in an on-site computer database or the cloud. This depends on which document management system your business has opted into using. Finally, documents are retrieved and distributed. Employees can search for a file in the index or through tags. They may then email it, modify it, or print it as needed. Finally, the file is saved and re-archived, bringing it full circle.

This three-stage cycle of document creation, storage, and retrieval all happens under the umbrella of data security. Some security comes from the document management service itself, perhaps in the form of encryption or restricting access to more sensitive files. Employees also contribute to the overall security of the document management system through activities like keeping antivirus software updated and not writing down passwords.

How Does A Document Management Solution Store Data?

The features you’ll have access to are partially determined by whether you have an on-premises or cloud-based document management system.

On-Premises Systems

With an on-premises document management system, your company will buy, store, and maintain your own servers to house your data. The business itself will typically be responsible for data security and back-ups, although you could contract those tasks out. 

On-premises systems are well suited to larger companies who can dedicate their own IT resources to this task. They are more affordable than a generous subscription to a cloud-based system. You’ll generally have faster access to data and no dependency on an internet connection. If bad weather takes a tower down, it won’t affect your company’s data access. 

However, these systems also come with fairly steep upfront costs. If the DMS goes down or there’s a security attack, you’ll need to resolve this on your own. They may be tricky to set up and complicated for an untrained employee to use. Finally, the on-premises DMS may not be compatible with a mix of Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

Cloud-Based Systems

A cloud-based document management system is hosted by a provider that works with you for your document creation, storage, and retrieval processes. For a monthly or yearly fee, you’ll have access to the DMS itself, software updates, maintenance, and troubleshooting. 

This solution has a much lower upfront cost, sometimes as low as a few dollars a month. That makes them a popular choice for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Depending on the plan, you won’t need to worry about data backups or security updates. A cloud-based solution will also free up space in the building that would otherwise have been used for an on-premises system. Finally, employees tend to find them more intuitive to use, as they offer a number of convenient, user-friendly features.

However, these services aren’t suitable for everyone. If your internet connection goes down, so does your access to data. Your file access and transfer speeds may be slower, which would be particularly noticeable with very large files. Finally, if your business grows rapidly, you may hit cloud storage limits and have to pay to upgrade.

Advanced Document Management Features 

Most document management system options have standard features like basic security, keyword search capabilities, and the like. If you need more advanced options, you may have to shop around for a provider that is familiar with your workflows or industry. Some more specialized features include:

  • Higher digital security, including permission-based access or security protocols compliant with international laws.
  • Archiving and reverting to previous versions of the document.
  • Mobile device access with secure portals compatible with various phone operating systems.
  • Monitoring tools to track who accesses a file and where it goes.
  • Auto-deleting outdated documents.
  • Compatibility with older equipment that is critical to your business workflows. 

Document management systems allow you to create, store, and retrieve digitized documents. They are a highly efficient feature that helps a business keep data both secure and highly accessible. There is a range of features available that can accommodate the needs of SMBs and large corporations alike.

Do you need a new solution to create, store, and retrieve documents better? Contact Definitive Technology Solutions today to talk with one of our document management specialists. We can help you find the right system for your Bloomington-area business.