Document Storage vs. Document Management Systems: Key Differences to Consider When Determining Which Your Organization Really Needs

Companies often wrestle with the following questions: Which solution is the simplest to manage, the most cost-effective, and the best overall?

There is often a great deal of confusion regarding document storage and document management systems. As a result, companies often wrestle with the following questions: Which solution is the simplest to manage, the most cost-effective, and the best overall?

As businesses grow, they often find that their local file servers have become challenging to maintain. To fulfill their document storage needs, these organizations often choose online public cloud services such as Google Drive or Dropbox, only to discover that these platforms are not scalable, have reduced functionality, and are prone to external attacks.

Although online storage applications are beneficial to those looking simply for an online platform to store their documents, images, and other digital files, their scope is limited to backup and storage. As a result, they are not ideal for organizations with complex document management needs.

When deciding which of these two solutions will best satisfy the specific needs of your business, there are a few things you should consider, including:

  • The importance of documents in relation to your entire business operation
  • How rapidly you need to retrieve documents to facilitate business functions
  • Your need to comply with regulatory requirements related to your documents

Generally, a document storage solution provides companies with an easy way to access and share files electronically – anywhere and anytime. In contrast, document management systems offer document storage and the ability to automate workflows and business processes. To choose between the two, an organization must understand the unique features of each system to make an informed decision regarding which will best meet their needs.

Features of Document Storage Solutions

Document storage solutions like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Box allow users to:

  • Automate storage. Document storage does the heavy lifting for users, including labeling the documents, scanning them in, and uploading the files to a secure server where users can access them online with a username and a password.
  • Perform quick searches. Document storage platforms enable users to search for documents by folder name, date, document name, and document type.
  • Securely store documents. Document storage solutions provide facilities with high-end security that offer easy retrieval and collection of documents.
  • Create backups. Document storage providers typically scan in documents, which can then be accessed at any time of day, anywhere in the world. In addition, should the physical copy be damaged or lost, document storage provides a backup version.
  • Free up space and time. Document storage is ideal for a business that wants a reliable outside company to manage its potentially sensitive and confidential paperwork.

Document storage systems are built to organize documents and assist with search, backup, storage, and access to electronic files. However, the focus of such platforms is not usually on the content contained in the stored documents, other than indexing them for search purposes.

Features of Document Management Applications

Building on what document storage options provide, document management applications go even further by enabling users to:

  • Streamline workflow. A document management solution allows users to collaborate on documents, move them along to the next person, make edits on the fly, maintain version control, utilize eSign solutions, upload to cloud storage, and more.
  • Search efficiently. Document management systems typically have a built-in search engine that allows users to quickly find the appropriate file, even within the most extensive document libraries. Users can also enter metadata and tags to organize all stored files.
  • Improve security. Businesses that handle sensitive data need to ensure that their information is protected. Document management applications typically feature customizable, role-based permissions, generate audit trail and retention schedules, and feature high-level data encryption potential.
  • Facilitate integration. Organizations often utilize a variety of existing software solutions. Document management systems are designed to integrate seamlessly with these platforms, allowing users to upload and manage any file type without negatively impacting workflow.
  • Retain documents. Many industries have retention policies that dictate how long to keep (and when to destroy) certain records. Document management systems can set retention policies for documents, including when to delete them, archive them, or move them to another folder.

Document management solutions are used to manage the document creation process, from inception through completion. These applications help ensure transparency and accountability during each step of the process and make it more efficient by automating critical tasks like assembly, approval, and quality assurance.

Which Solution is Best for Your Firm?

The answer depends on the unique needs of your organization. For example, if your organization is looking solely for file backup and storage, a cloud-based document storage solution will likely meet your needs. However, if your business manages document lifecycles that require review, approval, and signing capabilities, a legal practice management platform with a document management system could be your best option. Regardless of what you choose, making sure it fits all the needs of your firm is the most important thing.

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