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What is a document management system?


A comprehensive look at document management.

Read time: 11 minutes

Document management systems make a lot of sense for businesses, especially as digital documents and remote work become how business gets done.

No matter where you are in your journey to find the right one for you, it’s very common to have questions. In this article, we aim to answer many of those questions:

  • What is document management?

  • What is a document management system?

  • Why do companies choose electronic document management systems?

  • What types of document management systems are there?

  • What features should you look for?

  • How do businesses use document management systems?

  • How to choose the right document management system for your business?

  • What questions to ask when evaluating platforms.

What is document management?

Document management refers to how you file, store, retrieve, manage, share, and secure your business documents. Often in business technology, the term document management gets used synonymously with document management system. This, however, misses the reality that if you are in business, you already have some form of a document management system.

For example, storing Word docs and Excel spreadsheets on your PC is managing documents. Using file cabinets to store paper documents is another form of document management.

With this understanding, we can see that the definition of document management is how you store all your documents, both digital and paper.

In the past, managing paper documents meant file cabinets, folders, staples, and paperclips. Today, it likely means those plus digital files like Word, Excel, PDF, image, and an assortment of others you use daily.

Of course, the challenge with digital files is organizing, and – once you’ve got a lot of them – making them easy for anyone to retrieve. That’s where a document management system becomes useful.

Why companies choose document management systems

A document management system provides many benefits for businesses.

  • Simplifies remote work. Paper can’t move from one home office to another at the speed you need it to. Files stored locally on PCs must be found, emailed, or uploaded to be shared. Working in this way minimizes productivity for everyone. Those sharing the file need to interrupt what they are doing while those needing the file must wait.

Document management systems eliminate this problem. The file resides in a single, secured repository anyone can reach from anywhere, meaning no more waiting and fewer interruptions.

  • Increases productivity. Whether your people work in the office, at the home office, or on the road, everyone can access the files they need, when they need them. Productivity isn’t just about getting more work done though. Sales representatives can get the answers they need while in front of a customer, speeding up the sales process. Automated workflows can accelerate processes like AP, increasing the speed by which you get paid.

  • Improves workplace safety. Digital documents eliminate the need to move physical paper, creating touchless document sharing. They also make it much easier to implement a hybrid workplace with a mix of remote and on-site employees.

  • Reduces paper usage. You will likely still receive paper documents and may need to print some too, but the bulk of office printing will decrease as a single digital document can serve the entire company. When everyone has access, there is much less need to create copies. And new documents can be printed directly into the system, for immediate use and access by everyone who needs to use it.

Read more

Cut paper usage and costs in "8 Steps to Shred Your Paper Habit."

Cloud or on-premise document management system?

In the previous section, we mentioned cloud document management systems. While those are popular, they aren’t the only way to implement document management. There are two types of implementations: cloud and on-premise.

Cloud document management systems. These systems live and reside in the cloud, just like a lot of the applications you may use in your business and personal life. They would be considered public cloud applications, which only means they are accessed via the internet, not that your information is publicly accessible. All you and your employees need to access the system is an internet connection.

The benefits of this system include:

  • No need for onsite hardware.

  • No need for IT support.

  • No maintenance or support fees – only a subscription.

  • Secured access anywhere there is an internet connection.

  • Quick setup and configuration.

  • All data backed up in a secured data center.

  • Data center system redundancies ensure consistent access.

  • Ideal for both offices and remote work environments.

On-premise document management. This type of implementation means you purchase the software and install it within your network, whether that means on a physical server in your office or in your own private cloud environment.

Why do people choose on-premise document management?

  • Data security policy requires owning and housing all software within the company’s network.

  • IT staff and infrastructure are already in place, for the application, the backup, and for the connectivity, such as VPN for remote users.

  • Business preference.

As a business technology company, we have helped customers address their document management needs. See how document management could benefit your business.

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