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M-Files Review: Best Document Management Software Overall

M-Files
Credit: M-Files

M-Files is a powerful document management, digital filing and productivity system that fills several roles and has applications for dozens of different employees. It has features for both SMBs and enterprises, able to handle any number of documents for categorizing and searching. You'll be able to view your company's documents with any internet-enabled device.

M-Files' main interface is similar to the familiar Windows Explorer layout. You can quickly navigate your database of folders and perform similar functions such as copying and sharing files to various sources with just a right click. This drastically reduces the need for pricey and time-consuming training, since most employees should already be familiar with an Explorer-type interface. Likewise, on Mac, the interface emulates the Mac Finder interface. However, one noticeable difference is that folders are unnecessary. Documents are designated with several metatags for sorting. These include document type, client, project, date and status. There are several other tags you can manually apply to make browsing and searching for certain documents easy.

Your computer system and network treat M-Files like another drive, which allows you to drag and drop your files to other locations in your computer or vice versa. You can save files from any program into M-Files like you would any other drive.

M-Files is both an on-premise server and cloud solution. With a hybrid system like this, the backup and recovery system is easy to manage in the event of data loss.

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? If you're looking for information 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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M-Files makes scanning and organizing large numbers of paper documents easy with optical recognition and capture. This feature allows you to automatically classify scanned documents based on layouts and even content. M-Files uses intelligent character recognition to scan the document's text and apply the necessary tags to categorize it. With this feature, you can scan in thousands of documents at a time, which will automatically be sorted for easy searching later.

This is one of several automation features that can improve office workflow. Several different processes, such as review and approval notifications for contracts and standard operating procedures, can be programmed into M-Files to keep your office running like a well-oiled machine and save time on day-to-day tasks.

M-Files keeps close track of each document's history, including when it was last opened, who opened it and what changes they made. Its meticulous versioning allows for easy auditing and backtracking, usually all the way back to when the document was created. Permissions can be set for certain users to have priority over certain documents and allow them to make notes and communicate while a document is in progress with someone else. Other permissions allow certain users to co-author a document and make simultaneous edits. Personnel can also designate certain files for offline use if they need to go without internet access. Designate by project, type or customer and you'll be able to take them on your laptop or mobile device. Once you're back on the network, the files will automatically sync with your changes.

You can share files with colleagues, clients and other third parties directly through the interface, reducing the need for redundant emails and attachments, with the proper permissions automatically granted. Integration with Outlook allows you to quickly drop email attachments into M-Files for automatic categorization.

M-Files' price for your company is based on the needs of your business, how many users you plan on adding to the system, and if you decide to go with an on-premise system, a cloud system or hybrid. While M-Files is a good system for small and midsize businesses, representatives told us the minimum pricing starts at about $1,000 a month, likely making this system a better value for enterprise businesses. Fortunately, you can download a trial version of the application to see if the interface is a good fit for your company.   

Our interactions with customer service representatives were positive. They gave knowledgeable and direct answers to our questions and were transparent about pricing. When we described the scale of our small business and budget, they were honest in their assessment that their program may not fit our budget, but they still assisted us and were happy to demo the product for us anyway. You can reach representatives quickly through phone, email and live chat. Besides direct support, M-Files hosts a comprehensive knowledgebase, complete with data sheets, FAQs and guides. The site also hosts a community forum where you can ask fellow users about issues and solutions.

M-Files is a hybrid of cloud storage and on-premise storage, meaning you can access your documents from nearly any internet-connected device through a browser. However, you still need to install software and grant permission to the device in order for it and other applications to recognize M-Files as a location to save documents to.

While the interface looks familiar, it may throw some users off that folders are not required. The system catalogs several metatags on a document to categorize it, but to maximize its searchability, you and your employees need to add your own specialized tags, especially when dealing with a high volume of documents. This way of filing may take a little getting used to for those accustomed to traditional methods of organizing digital documents.

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

Andreas Rivera

Andreas Rivera graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Mass Communication and is now a B2B writer for Business.com, Business News Daily and Tom's IT Pro. His background in journalism brings a critical eye to his reviews and features, helping business leaders make the best decisions for their companies.