You Can Trust Our Reviews
Since 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions.(Read our editorial mission(Opens in a new window) & see how we test everything we review(Opens in a new window).)
What Is Document Management Software?
Document management (DM) software encompasses a wide range of features and functionalities, many of which are critical to effectively running a business. Many small to midsize businesses (SMBs), such as legal firms, creative firms, or media and publishing organizations, aim to go paperless and are looking for the right tool to do so. Businesses generate a lot of data regardless, so choosing a reliable and scalable DM system is key to streamlining and automating workflows.
For SMBs, an efficient DM system can make for better overall performance for several reasons. The most basic reason is having a place to store and organize documents. Version control, workflows, access permissions,backup, and data protection can also be handled by a DM solution. It is the starting point for storing, securing, and sharing various business documents. The ability to classify data is another DM capability that can completely change the way your organization maps its workflows. With all that power, it's no surprise that worldwide revenue projects for DM and enterprise content management (ECM) systems are steadily tracking up, as shown in the chart below from market research firm,Statista(Opens in a new window).
ECM Worldwide Revenue, 2017-2027 (Billions USD)
In addition to new efficiency, DM systems can also act ascollaborationtools, ones that combine new ways of communicating with equal attention paid to legitimate regulatory needs. For starters, traditional file storage makes security difficult to manage and maintain. While there are certain capabilities available to set permissions on a file or folder, these permissions can be rapidly degraded or defeated entirely simply by moving files from one folder to another. Tracking changes to a document stored in a shared folder on a corporate server is nearly impossible for users, as is maintaining and evaluating an audit trail. Even in terms of collaboration, there are significant improvements to be had simply by transitioning away from the traditional corporate file share.
And let's be clear: When we talk about DM in this review roundup, we're focusing on DM systems that can offer enterprise-level file management, including routing, retention, and sometimes even support for paper file handling, including offsite storage and insurance. If you're simply looking for online storage in the vein ofDropbox BusinessorGoogle Drive for Work, then you can read our reviews of those products in our bestcloud storage and file sharing providersroundup.
Storage and Collaboration
Even at its most basic, a DM system should be able to store documents in a wide variety of file types, though you should check your organization's requirements carefully in this regard and match those up against any potential system prior to purchasing. Even today, there are some proprietary file types, especially in custom-built line of business (LOB) applications, that not every DM system can support.
Aside from that, the DM system should also provide tools to organize these files and find those that meet certain user-defined criteria, with a minimal amount of effort or system resources. Most often, this will come in the form of a "smart search" feature; this is another key feature you should test during your evaluation phase. Capabilities such as tags and customizable key fields are important for finding files after their storage location has fallen from corporate memory. Some solutions, such as Microsoft SharePoint Online, provide features that will automatically classify or tag documents based on rules you configure. This not only improves reliability in the data behind your documents but also improves the odds that users can track down the documents they need.
Many of the DM systems we reviewed include some amount of online cloud storage, such as Adobe Document Cloud Standard, Ascensio System OnlyOffice, and Microsoft SharePoint Online. However, you shouldn't look at this as a key buying criteria because storage is the easy part. For most organizations, this won't be the most important factor when evaluating a DM system. Collaboration efforts, such as sharing documents, viewing changes (like in an organized revision history), or simultaneously working on a document with another user (available in both Ascensio System OnlyOffice and Microsoft SharePoint Online), are the kind of capabilities that will improve your teams' efficiency.
Another common scenario is integrating your DM system with other business apps. Because they handle documents, which are often central to many business processes, DM systems can act as the lynchpin to other business processes by feeding their data and functionality into other apps. Web content can be created, edited, and processed in some of these systems, and then monitored or even published through amarketing automation system.
Another common scenario is integrating a front-end DM solution with a different or customized back-end, business file sharing and storage solution; examples include Egnyte or Microsoft OneDrive for Business. This might be done simply because other company data is located in that repository or because the dedicated service offers better security features, particularly around access control and file encryption.
If this might be important to you, then your evaluation phase will need to focus on any prebuilt integrations a prospective vendor offers as well as the utility of its application programming interface (API)—or whether it has one at all. As always, if you can try before you buy, then that's the best way to go. Most of these vendors offer at least a 14-day free trial, while many offer a full 30 days. Some vendors even offer a free tier, though this is usually delivered with a low user count and limited features, which can defeat the purpose of evaluating the system.
Approvals, Sharing, and Signatures
There are scenarios in which a business will create a document just to have it. But, in most cases, documents are meant to be shared and usually shared often. Thus, a focus area for anyDMsystem should be the tools it provides for handling such files. At a minimum, these capabilities exist to streamline this communication and improve returns, either from an efficiency or customer perspective. In some cases, these communication tools also support tracking communications and reporting on them over time; this is a feature that can be particularly critical for documents that have compliance or legal repercussions.
From a workflow perspective, being able to route specific types of documents to personnel who need to complete or approve them is a basic level of functionality. Rendering the document in an editable format that becomes final in a non-editable file type, such as PDF, is another good feature. Finally, e-signatures have become a more common requirement in many business scenarios, not just to finalize engagements with partners or customers but also to verify workflow between in-house staff. Some DM systems, such as Adobe Document Cloud Standard, have e-signature functionality built-in while others need to integrate that functionality from an outside source. Whatever the method, evaluating a DM system will often require you to nail down both implementation and functionality, so be sure to ask a sales representative about it during your product demo.
Collaboration features are important, too. Having a check-in and check-out option that locks access when a user has downloaded a file prevents editing overlap and could prove to be a sanity saver. Version history is a great way to track who has edited files and when, and be able to revert to an earlier version if the file becomes corrupted or if errors are introduced. Some programs require integration with Microsoft Office 365 or Google Drive for Work to edit documents online, while others provide their own word processing and document publishing tool kits for the same purpose.
Compliance and Security
Security is a cause for concern for any business and is often top of mind when seeking and evaluating new business solutions. SMBs and startups might not see an immediate need for compliance or legal concerns, but it pays to think ahead. Systems that can grow with a company's needs featuring basic permissions as well as version control functions, will have the advantage. Consider a solution that can accommodate compliance requirements down the line. Investing in advanced and redundant security and backup features can only help future proof your business.
Companies with compliance or legal concerns, including financial firms, government entities, medical practices, and schools, will really want to focus on security as a primary criteria. More advanced security features, such as audit trails, advanced permission capabilities, or enterprise authentication tools such asmulti-factor authentication(MFA) or integration with a device management system, are less of a "nice-to-have" feature and should even be considered mandatory in some cases.
File retention is another security-related area that most of the DM systems we've reviewed support, though the tools and features related to file retention vary between the different platforms. Many companies must legally maintain records for a predetermined period of time. Your DM system should provide tools for preventing permanent file deletion. Ideally, it would offer you an archive solution to facilitate proper identification of obsolete files without compromising you legally.
Compliance considerations should be part of evaluating every aspect of your DM system. In cases where documents containing patient or other customer information are being handled or other compliance factors are in play, collaboration features should be managed very carefully. Many DM systems can prevent users from sharing files with external users (Ascensio System OnlyOffice and Microsoft SharePoint Online) or from saving them to a mobile device. Microsoft SharePoint Online takes this one step beyond the competition by offering rule sets that are tailored toward compliance, with specific laws and regulations based on geography.
Microsoft also has the advantage of being able to offer operating system (OS)-level data protection features such as access controls set at individual and group levels and especially data encryption. But, while Microsoft is able to offer these features largely because of its Windows OS, that's not the only way the company can deliver these benefits; it's not the only way its competition can deliver them, either.
Meanwhile, solutions like Adobe Document Cloud Standard offer compliance with regulations like theHealth Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(Opens in a new window)(HIPAA) and theFamily Educational Rights and Privacy Act(Opens in a new window)(FERPA), which protects student-education records.
Be sure to ask how a prospective DM system can deliver advanced security features and you'll find that some will deliver them through whatever OSes they support, while others will integrate with other back-end business platforms for the same capabilities. Once you've nailed down the how, be sure to evaluate how well these measures will work in your particular business environment.
Efficiency and Integration
Nobody really likes a tool if its sole purpose is just to maintain compliance and provide oversight for management. Therefore, ideally, your DM system will also make DM-related tasks easier and more efficient. Automation tools are one area in which a DM system can make your life easier. In some cases, these tools are related to a workflow, though each system implements workflow differently.
Integrating with other business systems, whether a financial system, database, or a cloud storage provider, can increase efficiency and accuracy in a number of ways. One DM system we reviewed can even take scanned documents, automatically divide them into separate records, perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents, and then produce output files based on the document content. These can then be imported into other systems to eliminate double entry.
Most of these services also have mobile apps that offer limited or nearly full functionality. Ideally, there should be apps for both Android and iOS so that your employees can have mobile access regardless of their device. Look for features in the app such as document editing and creation and file sharing. Ascensio System OnlyOffice and Microsoft SharePoint Online offer not just iOS apps but also Android and Windows Mobile versions, too. Microsoft SharePoint Online also has a mobile user interface (UI) that worked well in our tests and even includes an option to switch between desktop and mobile views. There, you can open documents, upload files, and add folders. Adobe Document Cloud Standard has mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows tablets and phones. You can view and sign documents, and even snap photos of forms and then fill them out on your device. Within Document Cloud Standard, Adobe has now added the ability to edit PDFs from iOS and Android tablets. Touch-enabled features make this functionality simple. Within a PDF, users can change text, format and edit as well as rotate and resize images.
Administrative controls are also important in a DM system. While most file-sharing services let you set permissions on particular files or folders, admins may also want to set global permissions for users. For instance, an admin may want to restrict some users from ever being able to delete files. Other admin controls include the ability to remove a user's access to some or all files (such as when an employee leaves the company or moves departments) and the ability to change ownership of a file for the same reason.
Compatibility and Customer Service
Customer service and support is a very important element even if the DM system is easy to use. The best systems offer live help in the form of phone calls or web chat; email is also a good resource for non-urgent issues or questions. You may even be able to schedule a phone call with support so you don't have to wait on hold. For small issues or for when you're still learning how to use features, access to thorough online documentation is necessary and video demos are even better. Other important features include advanced search and organized FAQs.
If you're investing in a DM system to manage large parts of your business, then it only makes sense to protect that investment by evaluating the support options for that system. In most cases, DM systems that are primarily cloud-based come with some level of support automatically. Systems that are designed to be implemented within your corporate datacenter will typically require a support agreement, usually with an additional annual cost. In any case, you should consider support costs when evaluating your options.
Finally, compatibility is also important. We're dealing with web apps here so, unless you're pairing them with desktop software, there's not as much to worry about compared with when you use other types of software. However, browser compatibility, APIsupport,and file formats are still important considerations, even today. Check to see that the software functions well on your preferred web browser, especially if your business relies on multiple web apps to function. Also, supporting only one browser can help keep your IT people sane. Additionally, do a document audit to find out which file formats your employees are using day to day and pay special attention to files being produced by any custom software your organization might be using.
Once you have a list, see if you can drop any esoteric formats and instead consolidate to more standard file formats, such as Microsoft Office's DOCX and Adobe's PDF. These formats are de facto standards and you can save yourself some headaches by relying on them. If you're stuck using a proprietary format, then don't give it short shrift. Make absolutely sure any prospective system can handle these files, not just in terms of storage or routing but also as part of advanced features such as e-signatures and especiallysecurity.
The Best Document Management Software? ›
- Alfresco Content Services.
- Google Drive.
- eFile Cabinet.
Most Frequently used Document Management System:
PDF Readers are the best example of a Document Management System through which you can access the PDF file offline and store it to view and even print and publish it anytime at any place.
Retrieval is a key element of every document management system. It is all about how a document is retrieved from the central storage. It is a complex process that regulates permissions and access to each document.
Document Locator is Windows-integrated software that automates document control procedures to comply with regulations and standards like ISO, FDA, and more. Quality documents, CAPAs, SOPs, non-conformance reports, training files, and work instructions are all managed with efficiency and accuracy.What is SAP document management system? ›
SAP Document Management System (DMS) is an application in SAP, which is designed to store, process, and provide access to different types of documents across the enterprise.Is SharePoint a document management system? ›
Yes, SharePoint is Microsoft's document management system (DMS) in Office 365.Is Google Drive a document management system? ›
But while Google Drive is an essential tool for any modern organisation, it is not a comprehensive electronic document management system (eDMS) for specialist businesses. An eDMS is a system through which companies can send, receive, manage, store, track, and record versions of documents.Does Microsoft have a document management system? ›
Does Microsoft have a Document Management System? Yes, it does. Microsoft Office 365 provides various software solutions including SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics and OneDrive for document management.What is electronic document management software? ›
An EDMS, or electronic document management system, is a robust software designed to centralize an organization's relevant documents and engineering drawings, thereby replacing outdated, disparate or manual systems.
What are the types of document management system? ›
- Content Management. Often referred to as web content management, this type of document management system focuses on creating, modifying, organising, and delivering content to users. ...
- Workflow Management. ...
- Record Management. ...
- Document Imaging. ...
- Enterprise Content Management.
- Reduced Storage Space.
- Enhanced Security.
- Improved Regulatory Compliance.
- Easier Retrieval.
- Better Collaboration.
- Better Backup and Disaster Recovery.
- Increased Productivity.
Strong document management processes ensure everyone in your organization, regardless of the department or team, knows exactly where a document is housed, which stage it's at in the review process, what still needs to be added, and whether any discourse actions might be needed.Why do we need document management? ›
A good document management system can help organize all of your files and data in one place, keep track of all of your critical documents, speed up your workflow, improve accuracy and provide around-the-clock access to documents from any part of the world.What should a document management system do? ›
A document management system is used to automatically organize, secure, digitize and classify company documents, making them easy to access, edit and share.Is File Explorer A document management system? ›
Windows File Explorer is Awesome, but it's Not Really Document Management.What is SAP ECC stands for? ›
What is SAP ECC? SAP ECC stands for SAP ERP Central Component. It's also known as SAP ERP. It's one of SAP legacy applications that originally designed to operate on a third-party database such as Oracle and IBM DB2.What qualifications do you need to be a document controller? ›
- Proven work experience as a Document Controller or similar role.
- Familiarity with project management.
- Basic knowledge of labor and corporate law.
- Hands-on experience with MS Office and MS Excel.
- Knowledge of Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS)
- Proficient typing and editing skills.
The OpenText™ Suite for SAP provides solutions that help map out and deliver transformation strategies in an SAP context across the organization and beyond. OpenText offers the digital content platform to manage and deliver unstructured content to SAP applications, dynamically, in context and on any device.Why is SharePoint so good? ›
The central benefits of SharePoint include a streamlined flow of information and cloud storage that can be accessed by mobile devices. Informed employees make better decisions, meet deadlines, understand the shared business strategy, and contribute better to it.
Why is Microsoft SharePoint the best? ›
Sharepoint is one of the most comprehensive and cost-effective enterprise content management platforms, including document management software, we encountered in our review. It has a steep learning curve but all the tools a business of any size needs.
- 1 Cost. There are so many things that SharePoint can do beyond file storage. ...
- 2 Poor Usability. ...
- 3 Document Visibility. ...
- 4 Document Duplication Woes. ...
- 5 Data Integrity. ...
- 6 URL Issues. ...
- 7 Navigation. ...
- 8 Can't Sort or Filter.
Filing and classification systems fall into three main types: alphabetical, numeric and alphanumeric. Each of these types of filing systems has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the information being filed and classified.How do I organize my Google Drive? ›
- Start with Folder Structure.
- Implement Some Color.
- Standardize Your System.
- Update Your Naming Conventions.
- Use Your Sub-Folders.
- Use List View and Stars.
- Regularly Audit your Google Drive.
- Try Google Workspaces.
On your computer, go to drive.google.com. Right click (secondary context click) on a file, and choose Labels and then Apply a label from the menu. Use the dialog to choose a label, and field values to apply to the file.Is SharePoint good for documentation? ›
SharePoint is one of the fastest document management systems available. Once it is successfully implemented, it saves a lot of time for the companies using them. As a Document Management System, it makes it easier to share, manage, change and find documentation.Is OneDrive is good for document management system? ›
Is OneDrive for Business a Document Management System? The short answer is, no. OneDrive for Business is a cloud-based solution that is designed to help businesses collaborate, share and store files more easily and on the move.What are the 5 basic filing systems? ›
- Filing by Subject/Category.
- Filing in Alphabetical order.
- Filing by Numbers/Numerical order.
- Filing by Places/Geographical order.
- Filing by Dates/Chronological order.
What is document management vs document control? Document management is about storing, sharing, and tracking documents to improve the efficiency of your operations. But document control is about marshalling the flow of knowledge and data in your organisation.What is EDMS PDF? ›
An electronic document management system allows for: • Secure environment for document storage; • Immediate web based access to documents by authorized personnel from any location; • Multiple users can access the same document simultaneously, at anytime; •
What are the two types of documentation? ›
Documentation can relate to two different types: products and processes. Product documentation describes the product under development and provides guidelines on how to execute actions with it. Process documentation, on the other hand, relates to all the material created during development.What are the different types of documentation? ›
- learning-oriented tutorials.
- goal-oriented how-to guides.
- understanding-oriented discussions.
- information-oriented reference material.
Skills. Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents. Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.What are advantages of using software for documentation? ›
- Less Storage Space. ...
- Offers Document Backup/Recovery. ...
- Improves Workflows. ...
- Promotes Better Version Control and Organization. ...
- Enables Easy Regulatory Compliance. ...
- Grants Wider Access to Documents. ...
- Provides Better Security. ...
- Saves Time and Money.
Accurate and Comprehensive- The information in the document is correct and detailed, making the documentation reliable and trustworthy. Consistent - The terminologies and format used throughout the document are uniform. Complete - All information must be in the document regardless of its size.How do you select a document management system? ›
- #1. Choose a Vendor with Industry Expertise.
- #2. Look for Appropriate Integration Capabilities.
- #3. Focus on Collaborative Features.
- #4. Verify Available Support Options.
- #5. Prioritize Data Security.
- Google Docs. Google.
- Apache OpenOffice Writer. Apache.
- Zoho Writer. Zoho.
- LibreOffice Writer. The Document Foundation.
- WPS Office Writer. WPS Software.
- Show more (1 items) Microsoft Office Word Online. see details Microsoft.
- Gather All of Your Papers in One Spot. ...
- Separate Your Papers Into 5 Categories. ...
- Discard Documents You Don't Need. ...
- Organize the Archive File. ...
- Arrange the Household File. ...
- Set Up the Action File.
- Microsoft Office.
- Acrobat DC.
- Apache OpenOffice.
- Google Docs (Sheets, Slides, Forms)
- Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
Does Microsoft have a Document Management System? Yes, it does. Microsoft Office 365 provides various software solutions including SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics and OneDrive for document management.
What is better than Microsoft Word? ›
To start, you might try another, better word processor. Apple's Pages and Google Docs are the heavy hitters and Scrivener is a long-time writer favorite. There are also new entrants, such as Quip, who hope to modernize word processing. Each of these programs is superior to Word, but you can go even further.Is there something better than Microsoft Office? ›
The best Microsoft Office alternative for businesses is Google Workspace (formerly G suite). The combination of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms come together around online storage solution Google Drive as a top-notch productivity offering.What are the 5 basic filing systems? ›
- Filing by Subject/Category.
- Filing in Alphabetical order.
- Filing by Numbers/Numerical order.
- Filing by Places/Geographical order.
- Filing by Dates/Chronological order.
Set up household filing cabinets to keep track of important documents and other papers (like kids' school projects) you'd like to keep. Organize your files with labels and take time to sort all of your documents into the appropriate sections.What is the best free document editor? ›
For Microsoft Word and Office aficionados, the best possible free online alternative for their document editing needs is definitely Word online, which comes as part of the Office Online suite.What is the best free document editing app? ›
- Zoho Writer [Web Based] Zoho Writer allows you to share your documents with the world. ...
- Open Office Text Documents [Windows, Mac OS X, Linux] You can edit your documents with ease using Open Office. ...
- FillHQ [Windows, Android, iOS, macOS] Fill. ...
- NeoOffice 3.1.
16 Quick Document Editing & Review Tricks in MS Word - YouTubeCan I use SharePoint for document management? ›
Document management with SharePoint lets users manage common document types, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and create folders to save and manage those documents in customer engagement apps (Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Field Service, Dynamics 365 Marketing, and Dynamics ...Is SharePoint good for documentation? ›
SharePoint is one of the fastest document management systems available. Once it is successfully implemented, it saves a lot of time for the companies using them. As a Document Management System, it makes it easier to share, manage, change and find documentation.Is SharePoint a document management system? ›
Yes, SharePoint is Microsoft's document management system (DMS) in Office 365.