If you are getting ready to implement a document management system, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is “where is this system going to live?”
In broad terms, you have two choices: you can either house the system on an in-house physical server, or you can host it online in the cloud. Each option has its pros and cons, and each should be considered carefully in your effort to determine the right course for your company.
What is a document management system (DMS)?
Essentially, a DMS is a digital file cabinet where you will keep and organize all of your company’s documents (both electronic and hard copies). A DMS connects with a scanner, with which you can convert your paper documents into digital files.
Some of the advantages of document management systems include:
- Quick and easy file location through highly sophisticated search engines
- Elimination of “lost” file incidences
- Reduction of time spent filing and managing file systems
- Reduction of costs associated with managing file systems, including labor and floor space
- Document lifecycle and version control
- Centralized views of your file systems
- Access to data on who has viewed and edited files
- Mobile document access for improved collaboration across your teams
A DMS also makes your file systems more secure as you can control access based on a range of criteria, such as job title, department, or any other parameter you set.
So, now that you know all the ways a DMS can benefit your business, how do you decide where your DMS should live?
On-site DMS hosting
One of the options for hosting your DMS is to keep it on a physical server on your premises. A self-hosted DMS allows you to store all documents within your company’s servers. You are only limited by the space and capacity that the physical server will allow.
You will pay for the number of users that need to access the system, and you’ll pay a one-time fee for the software (plus a license fee per user). There are often additional charges for periodic updates to the system and any upgrades you may need.
Self-hosted DMS pros
The main advantage to a self-hosted system is that you retain full control of your files and systems. You don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee for the software, though you will still pay a license fee per user.
Perhaps best of all, your teams will be able to access files without using the internet: if your web connection fails for any reason, you will still have access to your critical documents.
Self-hosted DMS cons
The buy-in for a self-hosted DMS is rather costly as it is payable when you purchase. Then, there is the yearly (or sometimes more frequent) expense of updating and upgrading. You will also need to be sure your servers are backed up, entailing some expense on the behalf of your IT department or consultant.
In the event of a disaster, such as a flood, fire, or power outage, you run the risk of losing all your files if they were not backed up to another location. This could seriously impact your business continuity.
Lastly, a self-hosted system may present compatibility issues between operating systems, forcing you to choose one or the other on a company-wide basis.
Hosting a DMS in the cloud
With a cloud-based DMS, all of your files and file systems are hosted online.
Cloud-based DMS pros
Reduced upfront costs are a huge advantage for some companies. You will pay a monthly (or yearly) subscription fee, plus a license fee per user. The cloud DMS provider handles all updates and upgrades, which you won’t pay extra for.
You will also not have to pay for new hardware when you run out of space: a cloud-based DMS allows you to scale up or down as needed at a comparatively minimal cost to you.
When in the cloud, your files are accessible online from any location and from any device. As long as you have an internet connection, your teams will be able to access their files. No backups are necessary, either, as those are also handled by the cloud provider. File security is robust in the cloud, and more advanced features can be added as needed.
Cloud-based DMS cons
If your cloud server or provider experiences downtime, you could lose access to your files, which could derail your day-to-day operations. Also, if your business loses its internet connection, you won’t be able to access your files.
The same goes for anyone working remotely: if they lose their connection, they’ll be left out in the cold—and you’ll be left working overtime to catch up.
As each company’s needs are vastly different, the choice of where to host your document management system is one you should consider carefully before diving in. If you would like to learn more about a document management solution for your Arkansas community, schedule a conversation with Business World today.