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Microsoft SharePoint

Best Overall Document Management Software

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 2020 research and analysis of document management systems leads us to recommend Microsoft SharePoint as the overall best document management system. We chose Microsoft SharePoint from the dozens of document management systems we considered for its comprehensive features, effective collaboration tools, exceptional scalability and relative low cost.

To read our full methodology and a more comprehensive list of document management systems, visit our best picks page.

 

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? To help you choose the one that's right for you, fill out the questionnaire below for more information from our vendor partners.

There are three plans available for Microsoft Sharepoint, each of which includes access to the cloud-based enterprise content management platform. Here's a close look at each pricing plan and the features it includes.

  • SharePoint Online Plan 1: For $5 a month per user (with an annual commitment), SharePoint offers your team access to Microsoft OneDrive with 1TB of storage. It also includes document management tools, secure file sharing, file sync for offline viewing and editing, co-authoring, team sites, communication sites, and 24/7 phone and web support.

  • SharePoint Online Plan 2: For $10 a month per user (with an annual commitment), SharePoint improves upon its first pricing tier to include unlimited cloud storage, improved search functionality and higher security for sensitive data. It also has an "in-place hold" toll that prevents the editing or deletion of important files.

  • Office 365 E3: For $20 a month per user, SharePoint provides access to the full suite of Microsoft Office 365 products, including Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. It also includes access to services like Exchange, Skype for Business, Teams, Yammer and Delve. With this plan, your team will receive custom email domain addresses, unlimited email storage and online video conferencing. It also includes 24/7 phone and web support.

SharePoint offers easily one of the most cost-effective pricing plans in our review. Especially at the Office 365 E3 tier, you can implement all the most popular Microsoft products for a relatively low cost. While SharePoint is competitively priced software at any level, it is the Office 365 E3 tier that packs the most bang for your buck.

Microsoft SharePoint includes a lot of features that are not core to document management software. While many of these features are useful, we reviewed the document management features of SharePoint more extensively than the rest of the platform. These are the key document management tools available in SharePoint.

Sites are a unique feature in SharePoint. Every site you create has an independent document library, helping you to keep unrelated files separate. Sites come in two varieties: team sites and communication sites. Team sites are primarily used for co-authoring and traditional document management. Communication sites are geared toward collaboration on a presentation to the larger team.

Sites can be configured to each team's needs, allowing customizability of everything from the metadata fields required for files to the actual design of the site. This flexibility allows all teams in your business to maintain an independent workflow that works best for them.

A useful tool in SharePoint is the ability to co-author documents. This allows you to edit documents alongside your team members in real time, while providing clear visibility into who is active in the document and what they are editing.

SharePoint features a check-in and checkout feature for when co-authoring is not ideal. A checked-out document cannot be edited simultaneously until the user who checked it out decides to check it back in with their revisions. This is useful when important changes need to be made or the document needs to be reviewed as is without any other users dropping in to make edits.

The versioning tool (sometimes called version control) tracks both minor and major changes to documents and keeps an archive of older versions. This feature allows you to see how a document has changed over its lifetime and, if necessary, revert to previous versions of the document.

The audit log in SharePoint keeps tabs on the actions users take in the system and when they performed those actions. This is especially important when you use the co-authoring tool to track changes to shared documents – and it's essential for businesses in highly regulated industries, which often need to present an audit log to a government agency to certify their compliance with data security requirements.

Through OneDrive, SharePoint files can be synced between local hard drives and the cloud. This allows offline users to make edits to their local copies, which will be uploaded to the shared cloud version of the document the next time they have internet access. To automatically sync files, you simply need to save a document (or drag and drop it) to a designated synced folder; SharePoint will do the rest.

Naturally, it is important to prevent unauthorized users from deleting, editing or even viewing certain documents. Administrators can set user permissions down to the individual in SharePoint. These permissions determine which sites a user can access, which documents they can view, which documents they can edit and more.

SharePoint goes a step beyond user permissions with its ability for you to set policies governing your documents. For instance, you can require certain tags on documents that include sensitive elements, such as ongoing legal action, protected client information or financial details. SharePoint also includes automatic policies to meet the requirements of certain laws and regulations, such as HIPAA.

In addition to these features, Microsoft SharePoint offers one of the largest libraries of available integrations we saw in a document management system. This means SharePoint can likely connect with any other software you use for your key business operations. For example, any invoices you store in SharePoint could work in tandem with your accounting software to keep your records up to date without the added effort. For more information on available SharePoint integrations, see Microsoft's product documentation.

SharePoint offers every feature we looked for in document management software, plus a wide range of tools to help businesses stay organized and hold teams accountable. It comes at a reasonable price tag, especially the pricing tier that includes access to all the other major Office 365 products, such as Microsoft Word and Excel.

When it comes to co-authoring (also known as simultaneous editing or collaboration), SharePoint is extremely easy to use. You simply open the online version of the document you wish to edit and you will be able to revise the content, even as other members of your team do the same. This capability makes it easy to manage shared documents and offers clear transparency into who is making what changes and when.

SharePoint packs a lot into one platform, making it highly effective for teams that can integrate it with their existing workflows. It might take some time to thoroughly learn the ins and outs of the system, but if you plan on scaling up with Microsoft SharePoint, it will be time well spent.

The biggest limitation we encountered with SharePoint is the learning curve. The sheer number of tools and options can be daunting, and it is likely that your team will need some additional training to make the most out of all the features. Additionally, the platform requires implementation by specialists from Microsoft, which could represent an additional cost and extra time to get the system up and running.

If you're looking for a simple document management system, SharePoint might be overkill. However, if you're looking for a dynamic platform that offers exceptional flexibility and simultaneous collaboration and can scale up alongside your growing business, it is a great option.

Unfortunately, there is no free trial just for SharePoint. However, you can access a free trial to the Microsoft Office 365 suite through the Office 365 E3 plan; this allows you to take SharePoint for a test run along with the other Office 365 products. To speed up the learning curve, it is helpful to understand the core features of SharePoint before trying the software out.

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, fill out the questionnaire below for more information from our vendor partners.

Adam Uzialko

Freelance editor at business.com. Responsible for managing freelance budget, editing freelance and contributor content, and drafting original articles. Also creates product and service reviews to assist business.com readers in buying decisions for their businesses. VP and co-founder of CannaContent, a digital marketing company dedicated to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Focused specifically on the content marketing arm of the company, creating blogs, press releases, and website copy for clients spanning the entire supply chain. Avid fan and indispensable ally of the feline species. Music lover, middling guitarist, and unprompted vocalist. Miniature painter who loves sci-fi and fantasy. Armchair political philosopher with a tendency to read old books written by men with unusually large beards. Ask me about all things writing!