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Businesses process and manage a variety of documents every day, including financial statements, purchase orders, invoices, and customer inquiry forms. If not organized centrally, locating files when they’re needed can become time-consuming and frustrating.
A document management system can help by allowing you to store documents centrally and electronically. Store files securely, index and classify them, and track and search them quickly and efficiently.
In this Buyers Guide, we’ll discuss the key features, integration options, and other considerations to keep in mind when choosing document management software.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Document management software is a tool that helps with the storing, organizing, and tracking of digital files. These tools allow users to manage workflows related to a document’s lifecycle, such as creation, updates, and disposal. By archiving documents electronically, organizations can reduce their paper consumption and disposal costs.
Document management software solutions fall within the larger category of content management systems.
You can opt for stand-alone tools that offer specific document management functionalities such as storage or sharing, or broader solutions such as content management systems.
Document storage software: Cloud-based document storage tools provide space for storing your files. This saves you the cost of maintaining your own document storage systems. You can organize documents into different folders and drives, as well as keep multiple versions of each file.
File sharing and synchronization software: These are solutions that help store as well as synchronize and share files, photos, and videos. While they do offer the basic elements needed for document management, features such as archiving may not be available.
Content management systems: Content management systems are broader solutions that help create, modify, and publish digital content, in addition to offering features for organizing and managing documents.
Key question to ask vendors before you buy: What functionalities differentiate your document management solution from similar tools on the market?
The two deployment options available for most software solutions—including document management software—are on-premise and cloud-based. GetApp lists only cloud-based solutions in its directories, as they are often more affordable for small businesses and can be scaled easily. Below we discuss some of the merits and challenges of both deployment options.
Lower upfront costs and easy scalability
Low-effort implementation—start using the software immediately after signing-up
Upkeep and feature updates are the vendor’s responsibility
Data is stored in third-party servers, giving the user less control over it
Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
Higher upfront costs, but no recurring expenses
Longer implementation time
Upkeep and updates are the user’s responsibility
Data is stored on self-managed servers, giving the user greater control over it
More customizable in terms of security and data control features
Key questions to ask vendors before you buy:
(Cloud-based, or SaaS, vendor) What data security features do you provide?
(On-premise vendor) What are the system requirements to set up the software?
Document management software offers many features that help you organize, secure, and store your files. Some of the key features to look out for when choosing a document management tool include:
Document storage: Store your files on the cloud or on-premise servers for easy retrieval and sharing. If you’re opting for a cloud-based solution, you’ll want to ensure that your subscription offers sufficient storage space as well as provides provisions for scaling it.
Document storage in Microsoft OneDrive
Access control: Use access control methods such as role-based permissions to ensure that only authorized people have access to files. You can also control the degree of access depending on user role and designation.
Access control options in Google Drive
Audit trail: Track and record the path a file has followed, capturing details such as the date and time of access, the people accessing it, and the actions performed on it.
Version and activity history in Zoho WorkDrive
Search: Locate and retrieve files by typing in the file or owner names.
Search option in Dropbox
Scanning and imaging: Digitize your paper documents by using image processing technology. The software will allow you to convert physical documents into PDF, JPEG, or other formats.
Scanning and imaging features in DocuShare
Indexing: Assign metadata properties such as file description, author name, and date to documents to classify them and make them more searchable.
Option to add tags to files in Box
Collaboration tools: Share documents with other users inside and outside your organization. Also, set relevant document permissions—read-only or edit—when sharing files.
Chat and sharing options in Glasscubes
Key questions to ask vendors before you buy: What key features does your software offer?
Integrating your document management system with other applications will make it easier to capture data and store your files. It will also make it easy for users to access files created by other teams.
Some of the key tools with which your document management software should integrate include:
Accounting: Integrating with accounting software will help manage and store tax documents, customer bills, and other financial information. It will also support the import and export of financial data to let accountants track information and update their systems with any historical information.
Customer relationship management (CRM): Integrating with CRM solutions will let you transfer, store, and organize customer and leads details. You can also store and share proposals, presentations, invoices, purchase orders, quotes, and emails.
Digital signature: Integrating document storage software with digital signature tools allows you to automatically capture signatures on stored files.
Email: Integration with email tools such as Microsoft Outlook makes it possible to capture and store emails. It also facilitates sharing files stored in the document management tool with users via email.
Project management: Consolidate and store your project documents such as blueprints, charts, and approval documents. Integration with project management software helps improve operational efficiency and collaboration between teams.
Key question to ask vendors before you buy: Do you offer application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow me to set up custom integrations?
The rise in adoption of big data management and data analysis tools, the need to maintain data compliance, and increased affordability are some of the factors driving the growth of document management software.
Some of the key trends seen in the document management software market include:
Mobile-friendly tools becoming the norm: Document management software vendors are developing mobile-friendly solutions that provide users a seamless experience between their desktop computers and mobile devices. Providing a user-friendly interface on mobile devices is also becoming important.
Increased focus on collaboration capabilities: Document management tools are offering enhanced collaboration features such as file lock access and integration with social networking sites to improve collaboration and reduce errors when multiple users work on the same document.
Key questions to ask vendors before you buy: What new software features and integration options are you planning? Will these be available for free or will I need to pay extra?
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.