Online Document Management: How To Get Organised Fast & Free

Published on 17/04/2020 by Anna Hammond

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How many hours have you wasted hunting for a document that’s gone missing? How much anxiety have you felt searching through messy digital folders in search of an essential file? 

If these issues sound familiar to you, you’re likely in need of an online document management system. The necessity of such systems is even greater when employees are collaborating while working remotely. Having everything stored in one easy-to-access space can be a game-changer when workers are frequently switching from one device to another, or working at different times of the day. 

Think you’re ready for a secure records management system? Below, we’ve outlined some of the benefits and tips for getting set up on a document management system ASAP, as well as a review of some of the most popular platforms available.

The benefits of a document management system

Ask anyone who has switched to an online document management system, and they’ll be able to tell you how much life improves once you are set up and organised. But if you’re still on the fence wondering whether it’s worth the effort needed to switch over, here are some of the top benefits of a document management system: 

Improved organisation

By far the biggest advantage of a good system is how easy it is to be organised. With everything stored in one place and accessible from any approved device, as well as smart search functions, it’s much easier to stay organised. 

Better collaboration

Most document storage systems allow you to create “live” documents. Meaning if you’re working on something as a team, you won’t need to email versions of documents back and forth every time someone makes a change. Instead, any new changes will be visible in the live document stored within the system. 

Enhanced security

A good digital records management system will come with security measures that will give you peace of mind. You can limit who within your organisation has access to any given document, and if an employee’s workplace device is stolen or lost, you can easily deny the compromised device access to your documents. 

Easy backup storage

Traditional document storage relies on a hard drive to save files. This means if your computer malfunctions, you’ll lose every document stored on it. With an online document management system, this is no longer a worry—everything is stored safely in the cloud. As a bonus, this will free up lots of space on your hard drives.

How to create a document management system

The technology you use to store your online documents is a vital part of your document management system, but no matter what platform you choose, you’ll need to do some planning. 

Here are the steps we recommend you follow to get ready for the transition to digital document storage: 

  1. Take stock of your existing files

The first step of transitioning to a document management platform is uploading files that already exist. This may be the most time-consuming step, as you’ll need anyone in the organisation who has created and stored documents to lend a hand. You will need to decide what documents are worth storing and what ones you can discard. It can also eliminate any duplicates or old versions of documents. 

  1. Start building your folders

Most document management systems allow you to create folders, and these will be key to keeping everything organised. Creating folders first will make it easier when it comes time to upload individual documents. Start with “parent” folders—for example, you might have one folder titled “Marketing”, another titled “HR”, and another titled “Finance”. Within these, you can then create sub-folders like “Branding”, “Personnel Documents”, and “Tax Documents”. 

  1. Establish a standard naming convention

Within your digital management system, you’ll be able to sort documents alphabetically. Your system will be much easier to manage if you establish a naming convention for all files, and enforce that convention across your business. Many companies use the date of creation to name files, starting with the year—for example, call a document something like “2020-April-3 Blog Article”. You can also use words like “Draft” or “Version-2” or “FINAL” to help indicate where documents are within your internal processes. 

  1. Set security rules and regulations

As mentioned, one of the biggest benefits of online records storage is the added security you get—but this won’t mean much if your employees don’t adhere to your security standards. Once you have a good understanding of the security settings you want to employ, create a guide for employees so they will be able to follow suit with every document they create. 

Free document management software reviews

Below you’ll find an overview of some of the most widely used digital document storage platforms. We’ve listed them from highest to lowest based on user recommended score, and we’ve put details on their overall rating and ease of use, customer service rating, their cost, and some of their primary features. 

For a detailed methodology of how we put together this list, see the bottom of the article.*

1. Google Docs

Rating: 4.7/5

Features: 4.5/5

Ease of use: 4.7/5

Customer support: 4.3/5

User recommendation score: 9.2/10

 

Google Docs collaboration tool for online document management
Multiple users access a shared Google Docs file (Source)

 

About Google Docs:

Google Docs is an all-in-one document management system used by countless organisations around the world. If your business is already using Gmail or other Google Apps, then the transition to Google Docs should be pretty simple. 

Google Docs is part of the larger Google Drive suite, a cloud-based storage system that allows you to create and manage everything from word documents to photos, videos, spreadsheets, and slideshow presentations, all in one place. 

Fans of Google Docs praise the simple interface, as well as the ease of sharing and collaborating on documents. You can also upload existing files with a simple drag-and-drop method. This makes it simple to transition to Google Docs if you have existing files stored on hard drives.  

2. Dropbox

Rating: 4.5/5

Features: 4.4/5

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Customer support: 4.2/5

User recommendation score: 8.6/10

 

Dropbox online document management
Dropbox online document management interface (Source)

About Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most common document management systems on the market today. It has an estimated 500 million people worldwide signed up for the service. The platform is a straightforward system, with an easy drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to move and store files no matter how many people are working on the same system. 

Dropbox works within the cloud, but users can also install a Dropbox extension on their personal devices, meaning they can work on live documents even when offline. There are no restrictions on what file types you can store within Dropbox. If you use diverse multimedia, this solution may be a good option for your organisation. 

 

  1. Box

Rating: 4.3/5

Features: 4.3/5

Ease of use: 4.4/5

Customer support: 4.2/5 

User recommendation score: 8.4/10

Box online document management tool
Box’s online document management folder system (Source)

About Box:

With Box, you can access any of your stored files from any device or browser. This is an advantage when you have employees working on different types of mobile phones and computers. 

Box users cite the easy sharing capabilities of the platform as one of its best features. With just a few clicks, employees can share any type of stored document with one another. You can also assign administrator roles to specific people within your organisation; these individuals will have the ability to control sharing and storage, so you can feel more secure about sensitive files on the cloud. 

Organisation is key

If you haven’t used an online document management system before, it may seem daunting to switch over to a new platform. 

There will likely be a few teething issues to sort out initially, but once you have transitioned your team over, you’ll find the added organisation and security that comes with a document management system is well worth the effort. 

To take a deeper look at some of the options available, check out our full list of document management system platforms.

 


*Methodology:

  • We reviewed GetApp Australia’s directories of document management software, which produced a list of 250 software apps (research conducted 16th March 2020).
  • Out of these products, we narrowed the list to those that had an overall rating of 4/5 stars. This reduced the list to 210 apps.
  • Many users are in lockdown, and won’t have access to face-to-face IT support. We set criteria whereby the tools must have at least 4/5 star ratings for ease of use and customer service.
  • We then cut the list to include only the most reviewed apps and analysed the written reviews. This action took the list down to 8 tools (with 3,000 real-user reviews.)
  • The tools had an established market in Australia.
  • Finally, we evaluated the number of monthly searches being carried out for each tool. To assess this, we use keyword research software to narrow the list.
  • This produced the final three tools in the list.

NOTE: The content in this piece that provides opinions and points of view expressed by users does not represent the views of GetApp.

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