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Alfresco Content Services Review

Best Document Management System for Collaboration

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

Our 2019 research and analysis of document management systems leads us to recommend Alfresco Content Services as the best document management system for collaboration. We chose Alfresco Content Services from the dozens of document management systems we considered. To read our full methodology and a more comprehensive list of document management systems, visit our best picks page.

Alfresco Content Services is our best pick for document management system for collaboration because it is specifically designed to encourage collaboration between team members. In addition to the most important features we looked for in a document management system, Alfresco Content Services maintains workflow automation tools, such as a metadata rules engine, as well as easy content creation and editing tools.

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? To help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Alfresco Content Services makes it easy to create and edit documents directly within the system. Its integrations with Google Docs and Microsoft Office – which allow for the creation, upload and categorization of new documents without leaving the system – are particularly great collaboration features that support teams' ability to work closely together within Alfresco. Similarly, documents can be accessed using these familiar programs once they are in the system, making it easy for any permissioned users to edit documents on the fly.

Alfresco Content Services also offers workflow tools, such as tasks that help team members and managers stay on top of their responsibilities and progress. Managers can start a task workflow on any document, selecting specific action items such as "send documents for review" or "request document approval." These tasks can then be assigned to other users on the system with a due date and priority level. All users involved in the workflow will be notified as tasks are completed. Workflows in Alfresco Content Services allow teams to work together around the clock in accordance with an established structure of responsibility, even when managers aren't logged in.

In addition to the cloud-based and on-premises hosted options, Alfresco Content Services is available in a hybrid model that allows your team to work in the cloud and behind your own firewall on company servers at the same time.

Alfresco's user interface is relatively plain and lacks some of the intuitive navigation that we looked for in our review. It is a complex system with a great deal of depth, the more nuanced aspects of which will likely take users some time to master.

Like many other document management systems, Alfresco displays a folder tree on the left-hand side of the dashboard. For content that is already in the system, navigation works much like Windows, so it's easy to find existing documents.

Along the top of the interface are tabs for Home, My Files, Shared Files, Sites, Tasks, People, Repository and Admin Tools. These tabs navigate to separate windows within the system. This can take some time to grow accustomed to, compared to document management systems that are primarily navigated through one central dashboard. The Repository tab is where users add content to the system and determine how it will be organized.

Despite the learning curve, Alfresco has some useful features that make content creation simpler. For example, its integration with Google Docs allows users to create new documents directly through Alfresco's platform rather than uploading existing documents from outside the system. The integrations make it easy to work within Alfresco without ever leaving the software. You can also download these documents directly as Microsoft Office files from Alfresco.

Alfresco Content Services offers some of the most useful features we looked for in a document management system, including optical character recognition (OCR) when scanning in new documents and indexing tools that help users categorize and organize documents appropriately.

Alfresco also includes custom templates, which allow for the creation of templated folder structures that are easy to duplicate. This function is useful for establishing standardized workflows that match your team's preference and workplace culture, keeping documents organized in a universally recognizable way.

Like the other leading document management systems we reviewed, Alfresco has a robust content metadata tool, which allows users to tag all files with identifying labels that other members of your team can easily search. Adding keywords, categories and descriptions to documents makes them easier to find. Admins can also set rules for certain documents, automatically applying the appropriate metadata to the files based on certain triggers.

Once metadata is applied to a document, team members can use the search function to locate and access it. The search function includes a field for keywords, file name, document title, description and upload date.

Alfresco products and services are part of a larger digital business platform but can be purchased individually. The Alfresco Document Management System's price is based on your company's size and the scope of services you require.

The company offers three different tiers that vary in price depending on your needs.

  • Starter edition: This version supports up to 100 named users. It can integrate with Microsoft Outlook, records management and Salesforce CRM.
  • Business edition: This version supports up to 300 named users, with the option to add on more. It supports the same add-ons as the Starter edition, plus Alfresco's media management tool, document transformation engine and media transformation engine.
  • Enterprise edition: This version supports up to 1,000 named users, with the option to add on more. It supports the same add-ons as the Business edition, plus Alfresco's index engine and content encryption tools.

To obtain a unique quote for your company, contact the Alfresco sales department with your specific requirements.

Our customer service experience with Alfresco was positive. Both the company live chat and phone representative walked us through the product, clarifying points we found in company documentation. After the call, they forwarded us links to additional resources for learning about Alfresco Content Services. We weren't pushed to make a buying decision immediately, and the representative on the phone remained engaged when we explained that we were merely testing the market at this point to see what could be a good fit for our hypothetical company.

Alfresco requires a customer support subscription, like many of the other document management system vendors we reviewed. The annual subscription includes 24/7 access to Alfresco's support portal and self-guided materials, as well as web, email and phone support.

There's a bit of a learning curve to become truly comfortable using all the features available. It takes a bit of practice and training to best leverage the collaboration tools and workflow automation functions, such as the metadata rules. However, once users become proficient with the software, Alfresco's collaboration features are highly effective.

Another potential limitation is the system's pricing. Prices fluctuate depending on the size of your company and scope of your needs, and we were not able to obtain a ballpark quote from the sales department with the limited information we could offer about our hypothetical business. The company does, however, offer a 14-day free trial of its cloud-based version, allowing you to determine what you'll be getting for the price you're quoted before you decide whether it's worth buying.

Ready to choose a document management system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? To help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for a variety of outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.