What is a Document Management System?
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A document management system, or DMS, refers to the tools and processes your organization uses to store and manage documents. A modern DMS will often provide robust search capabilities, metadata tagging, access controls, and increased security processes to protect files.
How Do Document Management Systems Work?
In the past, document management meant a combination of filing cabinets, boxes, shelves, folders, binders, scanners, thousands upon thousands of printed pages, and designated square footage in the office to hold it all.
Thankfully, document management has evolved to align with today’s digital workplace by storing electronic files and documents either in an on-premises or cloud DMS. These tools bring with them a variety of capabilities that are quickly making the DMS the backbone of the law firm.
Some of the key DMS features for law firms and corporate legal teams include the ability to:
- Create and edit documents
- Organize documents by matter or project
- Securely share and collaborate on documents
- Track version history
- Access workspaces and documents remotely
- Control user access permissions
- Apply custom metadata
- Find content efficiently
- Integrate with preferred software solutions
- Maintain advanced security and governance
With these productivity-boosting features, DMS users are able to streamline their workflows while staying focused on clients and outcomes. However, your mileage may vary depending on the type of DMS you choose for your organization.
Types of Document Management Systems: Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises
Before the internet was widely used, the only real choice businesses had for secure, digital document storage was an on-premises system. The primary benefit of “on-prem” is keeping total control of the system within your organization — but this can create a false sense of security. While on-premises solutions are still common among law firms and other businesses, they are also expensive and difficult to set up and maintain. They require in-house server hardware, software licenses, security systems, and IT personnel to keep everything running smoothly and address issues as they arise. An increasingly mobile workforce opens in-house systems to more security challenges.
Cloud-based solutions have grown in popularity as an alternative to on-premises systems. With a cloud-based DMS, the management and upkeep of hardware, software, security, and personnel are the responsibility of the cloud provider. Business users simply pay a monthly fee to the cloud provider to access the DMS via the internet.
Benefits of a Cloud-Based Document Management System
In addition to significant cost savings, the cloud offers a variety of benefits over on-premises DMS solutions. Two are of particular importance for legal professionals: security and mobility.
While providers can vary, cloud-based DMS solutions are responsible for the security of their clients’ data. A DMS for law firms, corporate legal teams, and the public sector places an even higher emphasis on security, compliance, and backups because they understand the strict standards of confidentiality that must be met. With the right vendor, legal professionals and those they work with can have peace of mind that their most important data and documents are being protected at the highest level.
Mobility is also a great benefit that comes with using the cloud. Whereas on-premises solutions require users to connect to the office network directly or via VPN, cloud solutions make it possible for users to securely access their data from almost any internet-connected device. This gives teams the ability to work remotely with ease, increase productivity, and provide better service to clients and constituents.
For more on the benefits of remote work, download our eBook: From Perk to Profit: How Law Firms and Corporate Legal Departments Can Implement Flexible and Remote Work. Or Managing Documents in the Permanently Hybrid Workspace for the Public Sector.
Use Cases for Document Management Systems: Managing, Collaborating, & Sharing Files
The reality of the modern workplace is that nearly everything we do happens on our devices: We use them to communicate, research, create, collaborate, and so much more. Information is constantly circulating in, out, and through the office. Because of this, a DMS isn’t just where legal teams and operations store documents — it’s where work happens.
Beyond mere storage, a DMS empowers organization. When you deal with huge quantities of information, being able to quickly find and retrieve necessary information is vital to productivity and timely turnarounds. A robust DMS can even make it possible to template workspaces so that new projects can be seamlessly integrated into the existing organizational structure.
As teams work together and collaborate, it is crucial to ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information. Passing multiple versions of documents between various parties can be a recipe for disaster, but a DMS makes it easier to collaborate with others by tracking changes and updates, so everyone stays on the same page.
Finally, with cloud-based document management, not only can organizations enjoy mobility across their devices, but they can also securely share documents within the team and with external stakeholders.
Your DMS: More Than Storage
With the quantity of files that even small firms and businesses manage, a modern DMS can quickly become the foundation for all of your work. Not only does the DMS allow you to securely store and manage documents and data, seamless integrations with Microsoft 365 and other software applications can dramatically enhance productivity and efficiency. From increasing flexibility to enabling better service for clients and constituents to putting your mind at ease, there is a lot your DMS can do for you.
See why a robust DMS is a key component of any legal team’s tech stack in Why do you need a DMS?