Our 2018 research and analysis of document management systems leads us to recommend FileHold Express as the best document management system for small businesses. We chose FileHold from the dozens of document management systems we considered. For our full methodology and a more comprehensive list of document management systems, visit our best picks roundup page.
FileHold has an intuitive interface that's great for small businesses to get a handle on. It uses the same filing structure as Windows Explorer, which makes it easy to learn and introduce to new employees.
Easy to Use
What makes FileHold so appealing to small businesses is that it has the same look and feel as programs they're accustomed to. The filing structure incorporates the same cabinet, drawer, folder and subfolder approach that Windows Explorer uses. Once it's installed, employees should be able to quickly get up to speed.
We were impressed with the system's clean interface. Unlike with other systems that are cluttered with icons and images, all you see when you log in is the document library running down the left-hand side of the page and a search bar along the top. You file, search and review documents all from this same page. Many of the other systems we examined force you to toggle back and forth between pages.
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The system's MyFileHold folders are extremely helpful. These are separate folders on top of the general library of cabinets and drawers for your most used documents, your checked-out files, any alerts or reminders you have, the files you've recently accessed, and the documents you've recently added to the system. This provides a snapshot of the documents you're currently working on and the items that need immediate attention.
FileHold allows a good amount of customization. Employees can tailor portions of the system to their personal preferences. You can customize quick links for a variety of tasks, such as adding files, linking documents together and checking out files. You choose the specific metadata attributes – such as document type, version, number of linked files and author – that show alongside the file's name.
You can file documents in the system in multiple ways. You can drag and drop files already on your computer or network, as well as scan documents directly into the system. The Microsoft Office integration allows you to add documents you are working on in Word, Excel, Outlook or PowerPoint with the click of a button.
Once in the system, a document in an inbox. Here, you define its metadata attributes and choose the location where you want it filed. FileHold offers a multitude of attributes that can be attached to each file, so you can select different properties for different types of documents. For example, attributes for invoices may include the client the invoice is for and the date it's due to be paid, while a brochure may have properties like who created it and when it was added to the system.
FileHold offers several easy ways to quickly find the documents you're looking for. The easiest option is to type in words or phrases you are looking for in a document into the main search bar, which is similar to the Google search bar. This searches the entire library of files. However, instead of only bringing back documents with the exact wording you searched for, this option returns results that include synonyms, stemming words and words closely associated with your original search terms. When the results are returned, you can click on a file, and a preview box highlights the words you were searching for, so you can quickly see if it's the document you need. You can also conduct advanced searches that allow you to look for files based on metadata attributes.
We were especially impressed with the numerous collaboration tools, which include a check-in and checkout feature that blocks more than one person from working on the same document at the same time. You can also set alerts that automatically notify co-workers when documents are checked in and out or when changes are made to files.
The software keeps an audit log of everyone who accesses each file and when they do so, and workers can review previous versions of documents after changes have been made.
Fortunately for businesses with remote employees, the system is accessible from anywhere, via any internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you are logged in remotely, the software allows you to search, retrieve and work on any document saved in the system. Not all the self-hosted systems we examined offer this extent of remote access.
To ensure employees only see the files and documents they're supposed to, FileHold offers a choice of 11 security roles, ranging from read-only to system administration. You can also set specific access permissions for entire cabinets and folders, as well as for individual files.
Other standard features include a calendar that keeps track of uncompleted tasks, the option to virtually link files in the system, and scanning software that automatically converts the text on typed paper documents into editable and searchable data.
You can purchase optional features for an added cost, including workflow capabilities, the option to create guest accounts for read-only users, and electronic signature functionality.
Since FileHold is a self-hosted system, most of the costs are just one-time fees. The price is broken up into several parts, with charges for the software, user licenses, and installation, implementation and training.
The system is available in two pricing plans: FileHold Express and FileHold Enterprise. The Express plan is designed for businesses with 20 or fewer employees, while the Enterprise plan accommodates larger businesses. Both plans offer the same user experience, features and tools. The difference is in the pricing structure.
These are the one-time costs for FileHold Express:
- Server software: $3,750 (includes five users and six months of support)
- Additional licenses: $200 each, up to 20 users (includes web and desktop document viewers)
The only recurring cost is for ongoing support. You have the option of paying a yearly fee that gives you upgrades to the software and ongoing technical support. This cost is 20 percent of your original fee. For small businesses needing a comprehensive document management platform with all the essential features, the Express plan is a good value due to the one-time cost.
If the initial cost is too much for fledgling businesses, FileHold offers both interest-free financing and rental options. Most of the other systems we analyzed don't offer these payment plans.
Overall, we were very pleased with the customer service we received from FileHold. The preferable way to reach support is through email. FileHold responded to our email inquiry within 10 minutes. The representative answered all of our questions in detail, with links to the website with additional information.
Once your system is up and running, you can contact FileHold's customer support team by email or online help ticket. (Phone service is not an option.) There are also extensive resources on the company's website, including a series of user guides. In addition, the software includes built-in access to help guides.
The biggest potential downside to FileHold is that it is primarily a self-hosted system, so you have to have own your own server and need an IT expert on hand who is knowledgeable in maintaining servers, which can result in additional costs. A cloud option is available, but it is not hosted by FileHold, so you would have to arrange a third-party cloud service to host it and pay the costs of using it.
Another possible shortcoming is that customer support is available only by email and online. Even though we received an extremely quick response when we emailed, some businesses might be turned off by not being able to just call someone for help.
It's also important to note that this system isn't compatible with Mac computers. If your office is Mac-based, we would encourage you to consider our best document management software for mobile, as it offers full access from any web-enabled device.
Ready to choose a document management system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- Document Management Systems: A Buyer's Guide
- Best Document Management Software and Systems 2018
- Best Document Management Software Overall
- Best Low-Cost Document Management
- Best Mobile Document Management
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks.