Paperless Document Management Overview
You're switching to a paperless office. That means your electronic documents are about to multiply. How will you organize all of these new documents? How will you ensure that you'll be able to retrieve them? Is there a best all-around document management system for paperless offices? Absolutely, and that option is FileCenter, the low-cost leader in paperless document management software.
We'll take the guesswork out of choosing by walking you through some key considerations, then show you why we recommend FileCenter.
A Good Organizational Layout is Key
Most of the paperless document management software packages you'll find require you to "tag" your documents with keywords when you store them in the system. To pull a file back out of the document management system, you then have do a keyword search. This can work adequately if you happen to remember the right keywords. But even when it works, it requires your hand to leave the mouse so you can type, then you have to evaluate the search results to figure out which document is the one you want. In other words, pulling up documents can be slow and inefficient.
Enter the Electronic Filing Cabinet
Better, more efficient paperless document management software will use an organization method that everyone's already familiar with: the filing cabinet. This method, refined over decades of use, lets you jump straight to the documents you're looking for. When we carry this idea over to the computer, it becomes even faster and more powerful. In literally just a few rapid mouse clicks, you can easily drill down to exactly the documents you're looking for.
Rapid Cabinet Navigation
FileCenter employs just such an electronic filing cabinet user interface, making it one of the most efficient paperless document management software offerings available. Its interface presents your documents in cabinets, drawers, and folders, allowing you to navigate to documents much faster than using a search. But suppose a document isn't where you expect it? That's OK. The FileCenter document management system also provides a powerful keyword search engine which quickly searches through the body of your documents, much like a web search, giving you the best of both worlds.
When it Comes to Paperless Document Management Software, Compatibility Matters
When evaluating a document management system for the paperless office, many forget to consider compatibility with other programs. Let us explain. In order to make effective use of your documents, you have to be able to get them into the paperless document management software with the fewest steps necessary, and you have to be able to open the documents in their native programs so you can continue working on them in the future.
Document Management Means Embracing All Formats
Most paperless document management solutions have limited integration options. Some, for example, some require you to "print" documents into the system. At that point, the documents are frozen, meaning that you can't make any future modifications to them, a bad thing if you want to be able to store documents while they're still a work in progress. Other systems only integrate with a few select software packages and a small handful of file formats, like Microsoft Office, but ignore the less common ones. The best document management software, like FileCenter, has features that allow it to tie into the Save/Open dialogs that all programs use, making it possible to easily save documents into the system and open documents from the system, regardless of what program you're using.
Where Will Your Documents Go?
Almost every paperless document management software offering on the market today will put your documents in a database. But is this a good idea? Document management software makers prefer to push a database for paperless office use because it lets them offer you security features like password security on a per-document basis. But beware the repercussions.
The Pitfalls of Using a Database for Document Management
For instance, if there's any corruption to the database, you could easily lose all of your documents. A database is more complicated to administer. Databases typically require a server with fairly robust hardware. You won't be able to implement Cloud-based file access through DropBox, Google Drive, or Microsoft One Drive for accessing your documents remotely. You will lose the ability to right-click on files like you can in Windows. If you rely heavily on other software packages, odds are they won't be compatible, since the documents are locked out of reach in a database. You can expect that some file formats will not be supported at all. And if you should ever decide to change to a different paperless document management solution, just hope that you can get your data exported from the old one.
Favor Windows over Databases for Document Management
Our strong recommendation is that you pick paperless document management software that stores your files in regular Windows folders. This will ensure that you'll always have access to your files, from any program, even if you later abandon that paperless software. Besides avoiding every drawback of a database, perhaps the biggest benefit to this kind of filing system is that you will be able to enjoy cloud-based, remote access to your files through DropBox, Google Drive, or One Drive.
The Key to a Successful Switch to Paperless Document Management? Scanning, Scanning, Scanning.
Paperless means ditching paper documents. Successful paperless ditches the paper but not the information. In other words, scanning – scanning paper documents to PDF documents.
Rudimentary Document Scanning Isn't Good Enough
The typical document management system gives you rudimentary paperless scanning with some level of optical character recognition. The best document management system won't simply provide document scanning for paper files, it will embrace it. The simple fact is that scanning is the single biggest speed bump in a paperless workflow. Just because scanning is provided as one of the document management features does not mean that document scanning is easy to use. In fact, in most document management solutions, scanning is so cumbersome, repetitive and tedious that users avoid scanning at all costs.
The Best Document Management Software Is Built around Scanning
FileCenter document management software, on the other hand, was built around scanning, making it one of the best document management scanning systems available. Scanning to PDF documents is fast and user friendly, to the point that scanning almost becomes a pleasure. Scanning features like the automatic separation of documents, intelligent naming and routing of documents, and profile-based scanning make the process of migrating paper documents to fully digital PDF documents as smooth and rapid as possible. When your document workflow is built around document scanning, your chances of successfully implementing a paperless strategy improve exponentially. Look for a document management system that doesn't just support the scanning of documents, but that embraces it.
Don't Forget about PDF – the Heart of Paperless Document Management
PDF has become the file format of choice for document archival, thanks to its ability to retain all of the formatting of the original documents while resisting tampering, coupled with its ability to store OCR text within the documents, producing an electronic file that perfectly represents the original while being full-text searchable. And given its compatibility with nearly all document management systems, its status is warranted.
Edit PDFs in Your Document Management Software
The ability to easily create, manipulate, and store PDF files isn't just desirable, it is arguably one of the most important document management features. The best document management system will integrate PDF features tightly into the overall document workflow, making it effortless to work with PDF files without leaving the interface.
PDF Document Manipulation as a Core Document Management Feature
FileCenter rises to this level, providing a full range of user-friendly tools and features for working with PDF documents, right in the interface. It is a document management system built around PDF. For example, combining PDF files is as easy as dropping one file on the other one. Splitting apart PDF files requires simply selecting a file and clicking Split PDF. And a built-in PDF editor allows you to work close-up with PDF files without leaving the interface, providing such features and commenting, annotations, and PDF stamps. Finally, converting your other documents to PDF is an easy to use, one-click operation: select a document, like a Microsoft Word file, and click Convert to PDF.
Scan Documents Directly to PDF
By default, all document scanning goes directly to searchable PDF. That means optical character recognition (OCR) happens automatically and invisibly behind the scenes, ensuring that your scanned documents still contain all of the text from the original.
Don't Waste Money on Separate PDF Software
Maintaining a separate PDF program outside of your document management system isn't just more expensive, it is slower. When working with PDF documents is the life-blood of your business, choose a document management system that fully integrates functionality for working directly with your PDF documents.
Cloud-Based Document Management Should Be Optional
The trend among document management software is to move everything to the Cloud – a fancy way of saying Internet-based or web-based document management, where all of your documents reside on a remote server somewhere. The appeal is obvious: access to your documents from anywhere. What few talk about are the downsides.
Think about Speed
While electronic document management seems perfectly suited for Cloud-based access, since all of your documents are in digital format, we need to step back and remind ourselves of one important detail: most offices spend the whole day working with documents. Scanning them, opening them, editing them, moving them around. Document access is a primary task for many office workers. What happens when you take a primary task and slow it down by a factor of ten? Or more?
The simple fact is that, while on paper Internet speeds can approach the speed of a dedicated, local, wired network, in reality this never plays out. Every Internet request bounces through a long chain of servers, down many, many pipelines, every one of which introduces some degree of lag. Next consider that every single action in web-based document management solutions requires an Internet request. Every action makes the journey out to the far-flung server that hosts your files, where the action gets fulfilled, then passed back to your computer. Multiply this process by the number of times documents get browsed, clicked, previewed, renamed, moved, deleted, opened, edited in your office every day. Then think twice about introducing this kind of lag into your workflow.
Good Document Management Needs Reliable Access
Generally, our Internet connections are solid. But there are those days. You know the ones, where the Internet feels as halting as rush-hour traffic, when a connection comes to life just to go dead again two minutes later. Now imagine if your productivity was directly tied to a web-based document management solution.
In our office, we had two mornings just last week where the Internet simply vanished. Fortunately, our document management solution doesn't rely on the Internet, otherwise we would have had an office full of staff, on the clock, with absolutely nothing to do.
Don't Give Up Control of Your Documents
Many business owners feel a lot of pause about entrusting confidential client files to a remote server that they have no control over. The fact of the matter is, data breaches happen. More often than many feel comfortable with.
Keeping confidential business documents secured in the local office is a no-brainer for many business owners.
The Cloud Should Be Optional
When it comes to document management systems, the Cloud should be optional. Note that we said optional. There is an unquestionable appeal to the convenience of mobile document access. And Cloud platforms certainly play a role in file sharing, especially with those outside of the workplace network, like clients. But we question the wisdom of putting whole document management systems on the Internet.
A Hybrid Approach to Cloud-Based Document Management Software
So how do you retain all of the benefits of keeping your files local while also enjoying the few positives that come with a Cloud-based approach? One word: synchronization.
The current breed of Cloud drives give us the option of a powerful hybrid approach to document management, one that retains local document control while providing nice perks like remote file access and easy file sharing. Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, and similar platforms all function on the principle of synchronization. Files that are stored locally also get mirrored to a Cloud drive. This means files are available for remote access when necessary, but primary access remains on your local PC or network. Any changes you make to files locally get instantly mirrored to the Cloud drive – an identical set of the same files you keep on your local PC. This setup provides the additional benefit of redundancy along with a pseudo backup, though you should never rely on your Cloud drive alone for backups.
Why We Recommend FileCenter
FileCenter is paperless document management software that is not just user friendly, it will help you organize all of your files – PDF files, word documents, Excel spreadsheets, digital photos, and any other office or business documents, anywhere on your computer or network. It ensures compatibility with your other programs, while giving you an improved file cabinet interface. Along with fully-integrated scanning and PDF management, search capabilities, and a layout that's easy and comfortable, even for beginners, FileCenter paperless document management software will simplify the way you work and help you achieve paperless efficiency. Download a free trial today!
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