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What Is a Document Management System?

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by Dania Buchanan

Last Updated Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What is a document management system (DMS)? Does your business need one, and if so, why? Find out how using a document management system can help your business function more efficiently,

What is a document management system (DMS)
Image source: iStock.com

You may have heard the term “document management system” (DMS) bandied about by business gurus and think it may be a good idea for your business, but you aren’t sure how it would help—or maybe you just know that your business documents are spiraling out of control and you can’t find what you need when you need it (and neither can any of your team members). This guide will help you clarify how the right DMS can help to transform your business—especially in comparison to other potential solutions.

Let’s start at the top:

What is a document management system? 

A document management system is a platform for storing documents as electronic files. However, a document management system should not be confused with simply “cloud storage” such as that you might use with your Google, Apple, or even Dropbox account.

This is because unlike cloud storage which is exactly what it sounds like…a tool you can use to store documents, organize them, and make them accessible from multiple devices. A document management system on the other hand can provide your business with so much more in terms of protection, compliance, collaboration, eSignature capabilities, business continuity capabilities—and that’s just the beginning as we’ll outline below.

Of course, even using cloud storage can put your business a little ahead of keeping all of your documents on an on-premise server or in paper-based filing systems as we’ll also look at in this article. Imagine a cloud-based storage application as being akin to still handling all of your files folders manually, while a document management system provides a seamless solution for sharing, securely storing, and creating a synergistic workflow for the data contained within your documents both internally and externally to your organization.

Why does your business need cloud-based document management? 

Some of the key reasons for your small business to use a cloud-based document management system rather than a cloud storage solution include:

1. Tackling content and information sprawl in order to create efficiency and synergy in your everyday operations. 

This comes down to not only being able to find things when you need them and share important documents and data with others, whether they are third-party vendors, team members, or customers but also being able to structure an efficient workflow. 

This is where a true document management system elevates your operations beyond a cloud-based storage system because it allows for remote and collaborative work

2. Leveraging the benefits of the digital business transformation of your business. 

Moving into the cloud is essential for businesses today—if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us nothing else, it is that we need to be prepared with a solid business continuation strategy. This can only be accomplished when your business has secure access to files 24/7 both during regular business hours and wherever and whenever we may be forced to relocate to in the case of an emergency.

In addition, a good DMS can significantly improve the workflow of your business. What do we mean by that? With features such as built-in folder templates, eSignature integrations, and business and productivity application integrations, you can save many administrative hours by not having to manually create folder structures for each client or customer nor do you have to attach and download documents from emails to your desktop folders hundreds of times. You can integrate a DMS into your business operations and greatly reduce the amount of tedious and repetitive admin tasks right away.

3. Significant reduction in IT expenses. 

Another key benefit of cloud-based document management is the reduced IT expense when compared to a small business managing an on-premise server and remote VPN capabilities for their staff. If you do the math, you’ll find that utilizing a secure, cloud-based document management system is much lower in cost than having to maintain on-premise servers, pay for IT staff or third-party service providers to maintain software and hardware as well as the infrastructure expense related to non-cloud-based solutions.

4. Enhanced data protection and cybersecurity.  

One of the most important benefits of a cloud-based document management system is the security it provides for sensitive information such as personnel and financial records as well as access control for those individuals who have access to your files. Using a secure, cloud-based document management solution (depending on the one that you choose) can offer significant protection for your business and the people and entities whose data you store and share with bank-level data encryption for files when they are stored or in transit over the internet.

In addition, having your data in the cloud ensures a higher level of protection against potential cybersecurity threats when compared to storing data on a local computer or in other less secure options such as a simple cloud-based storage application. With the rise of cyber threats, this benefit offers increasingly valuable protection for your business to mitigate risks.

5. Enabling remote work capabilities to keep your employees connected and your workflow energized.

Now that remote work has become a necessity due to the public health crisis of coronavirus, having off-site, secure access to your company’s documents by employees and other third-parties such as vendors or contractors is essential.

This is exactly what a cloud-based DMS offers, depending on the solution you choose, your employees can simply login securely from their phone or laptop with their username and password, gaining access to only the files they have been granted permissions for. This provides an easy solution for remote teams as well as the ability to work synchronously on files with data in real-time avoiding version issues.

Options for implementing a document management system.

Ideally, the DMS you choose uses a cloud-based, secure environment not on a native computer hard drive or an-on premise server. The reason being that a cloud-based option will provide significant benefits versus an on-premise solution. Consider the differences:

Cloud-based document management system

  • Supports business continuation by allowing companies to transition to alternate locations in case of a business-impacting disaster.
  • Allows for customized document organization that supports a business’ custom workflow.
  • Supports remote working and collaboration capabilities as well as the e-signing of documents.
  • Offers advanced levels of information security, customized accessibility and cost control.
  • Enables synchronous work on documents as well as secure document transmission and

Cloud storage account

  • Storage resources are owned and managed by a third-party vendor.
  • Storage resources may be purchased on a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go basis.
  • Storage resources may be shared in a multi-tenant environment.
  • Software is kept up to date as part of an active subscription.
  • IT does not have to install software updates and patches.
  • The investment is considered an operational expenditure, which is a lower monthly cost.

On-premise storage

  • Storage resources are procured, owned, and managed by the enterprise.
  • The enterprise is responsible for securing the storage resources and data.
  • The complete cost of on-premise storage is the responsibility of the firm.
  • Updating software and managing the integrity of the server environment is the small business’s responsibility.
  • Storage resources remain dedicated to the company.
  • The investment is considered a capital expenditure, which is typically a high cost.

As you can see, from an operational and financial perspective, the burden is much higher for a small business when an on-premise document management system is chosen instead of a DMS. In addition, the capabilities provided by simple cloud storage are not nearly as robust.

Take action now to transform and protect your business for the digital age

Once you put the right cloud-based document storage system in your business you will find it to be truly transformative when it comes to increasing operational and staff efficiency, making remote capabilities easier, and boosting your own peace of mind about the ability of your business to persevere through almost any business conditions and mitigate its security risks.

Now that you understand what a DMS is and the benefits it can bring to your business, let’s look at the solutions that are available to help you take advantage of them. Read the second part of this guide to take action and determine the best DMS best solution for your organization.

About the Author
Dania Buchanan is Head of SmartVault, Global, and has served in leadership roles since the company was founded in 2008. In her current role, Dania is responsible for the culture, vision and growth of the SmartVault business, which became part of the GetBusy family of products in 2017. Dania has more than 30 years of experience in the technology sector, building high-performing teams across a wide range of channel and marketing strategies.


 

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