If your business spends a lot of time and energy managing paperwork, you could benefit from open-source document management software. This software allows you to quickly manage and automate your day-to-day paperwork needs. Here is everything you need to know about customizable document management software.
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Document management software is a system for storing essential information for your business. Legacy hard copies of documents can be scanned and then uploaded directly into the document management system, where they’ll remain safely in digital form.
Many systems allow you to enter metadata and tags to organize the files. Other tools may include a search capability so your team members spend less time tracking down specific documents.
A key consideration for any document management system is the workflow. You and your team should be able to navigate the file structure easily and face minimal friction in collaborating with other users. A document management system that provides mobile access will ensure greater convenience for your team.
If you will scan files as part of your workflow, make sure there is a method for adding and organizing files within the user interface of the software you’re considering. Keyword search and a system for viewing and editing permissions must all be built into the framework.
There are other practical features to consider when building a solution that works best for your team. For example, you need to determine whether multiple users can edit the same document simultaneously. You’ll need to build a version control system so users know which iteration of the document they are on and have the option to roll back changes. An audit trail, for example, allows you to trace the history of a file’s edits and which team members worked on it.
Open-source document management is a customizable, free platform for teams to share and collaborate on digital files.
Open-source document management software enables organizations to access, monitor and share essential files. When you use an open-source system, your company is responsible for customizing the solution for its users and implementing any updates built by the open-source community.
Businesses typically have one of two aims in using an open-source solution. Some businesses want to use open-source software as a trial solution to test whether that type of system will meet their needs before they pay for a similar program. For other businesses, open-source software itself may be the end goal.
Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of independent provider comparison site GetVoIP, said there is a lot to like about the open-source world.
“Many open-source products have additional features, like enterprise-grade storage space or hosted solutions,” he said. Proprietary systems may be a stretch financially for small businesses. “For many [companies], it is a good fit to try open-source software first, then upgrade when the time is right.”
Open-source document management may be the right choice for an organization that wants to build and customize its own solution. When created under an open-source license, the software is typically free to use, modify and redistribute. If supported by an active community, open-source software benefits from regular input and modification that improves the product over time.
If you want a flexible, highly customizable document management solution, open-source software might be for you. However, be prepared to handle the technical updates and support yourself.
These are some of the many benefits of open-source document management software:
The main benefit of open-source software is its flexibility. A core premise of open-source software is that it can be customized to the needs of the users, so a company that is comfortable with building its own solutions may find open-source software to be the best route.
“Open source means that anyone can improve upon the success of the previous generation,” Yonatan said. In the long run, this shared knowledge and collective effort can lead to better software from which all of its users can benefit.
Another major benefit of using document management software is that you can replace many manual processes with simple automation rules. For example, document management systems can process information, organize documents and send out electronic signature requests without any human intervention.
Storing and organizing paper documents can require a lot of space, time and energy. With document management software – open source or otherwise – you can significantly reduce the space and cost of physically storing documents in your office building.
Storing physical copies of all sensitive documents may seem like a secure option in the era of large data breaches, but document management software can actually increase your data privacy. With this software, you can tightly control who has access to sensitive information and keep records of who accessed specific data at a specific time. Furthermore, digital document management allows you to index, archive and retrieve all your documents in the event of a disaster, which you can’t easily do with physical copies.
The benefits of open-source document management software include flexibility, automation and easier disaster recovery.
For these reasons, an open-source document management solution may not be the right choice for every business.
Certain features might be more quickly accessible (with fewer headaches) from a third-party solution. Also consider the costs and time of doing the software work in-house and how the storage solution will look.
Document management software can be created as an on-premises or cloud-based system. With the on-premises (self-hosted) option, your business is in control and does not rely on an outside cloud provider for access or uptime, with server storage typically on-site at the office.
If you choose an on-premises system, you must decide how the upkeep costs fit into your budget, which is why many businesses use cloud-based systems. Your IT team doesn’t need to maintain on-premises servers for your documents; storage is handled through the cloud. Of course, with this option, any downtime on the software provider’s side means you’ll temporarily lack access to your files. However, such instances are rare, and you may even be able to build a hybrid option that uses both on-premises and cloud storage.
The major potential drawback to using an open-source system is the security risk, according to Jon Lincoln, former vice president of business development for cloud-based document management solution OfficeScope. Security is paramount, and open-source software may not have the most robust capabilities. [Read related article: Hackers Target These Types of Accounts the Most]
“With security being a major concern for many industries, organizations must keep in mind that most open-source document management systems do not encrypt documents,” Lincoln said. “If compliance is a major concern for your organization or industry, then using open-source document management will not be the right choice, since it doesn’t provide features that you may need to tap into to prove compliance.”
A key factor to consider is the application of ISO certification principles. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publishes standards that serve as a global benchmark for business practices and procedures. Proper documentation, for example, is a key component of ISO 9001.
While certification may not be necessary for your business, given the time and costs involved in achieving such a designation, a specific set of standards and procedures for establishing the user interface, sharing capabilities and security of a document management system are essential.
Open-source document management software can come with significant security flaws and demand significant upkeep.
If you’re ready to invest in a document management solution but aren’t sure which is right for your business, take a look at our list of the best document management software and systems. If you are specifically looking for open-source software, here are a few options to consider:
VIENNA, OpenDocMan, LogicalDOC and OpenKM all offer open-source document management solutions worth considering.
An open-source document management system can help a company keep its important information accessible and organized for everyone on the team. This eliminates the chance of human error while improving your workflow, allowing select team members to access documents from any place at any time. Additionally, open-source document management protects sensitive data from potential breaches.
This method of document management affords you many options, although the open-source nature requires planning about how you’ll implement the features from the available solutions. If you’re thinking about working with an open-source document management system, consider your business’s specific document management needs and weigh the different options listed above.
Sammi Caramela and Sean Peek contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.