The move to a paperless workplace starts when we avoid creating paper in the first place. With more and more office documents in electronic format (Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, etc.) and the reliance on email for communication and distribution, there is often little reason to use paper. Invoices, reports, contracts, etc. can be emailed or shared on a network drive saving time, money and enabling easy back-up and off-site storage of your vital information. Even when paper does arrive it can be scanned to the appropriate network folder. With electronic files and scanners to capture paper there is no need to spend more on a document management system, right?
There are some critical limitations on relying on your network folder directory to manage your documents successfully and in accordance with legal requirements. The first problem is centralization of information. While documents are stored generally stored on the network drive, some documents – and indeed the most up to date versions – may reside on someone’s local PC or laptop. Or, the required file may exist in several different email folders, taking up space on the email server while also being locked away from general access. As a central repository with multiple access points – even from mobile devices – a document management system like Vasion makes it easy to ensure documents are easy to access and easy to store centrally.
Why is it important to consider Vasion vs Windows explorer? Following a failure to guarantee the documents (or at least the most up-to-date version) are in the central library, finding a document is generally harder without a document management system. A document stored in a Windows folder can only be found by searching on the file name. This is a problem as the Windows folder search is quite slow and, more importantly, you need to know the name of the file. If someone has used a different naming style it may prove very hard to find. Of course, you can search by navigating through the folders, but this too can become quite messy as many levels of sub-folders may be used. Content searches can work for some electronic documents but you still might be faced with a huge list of files that have nothing to do with what you are looking for (other than to share the same keyword somewhere within). And, what happens when the folders really start to fill up? A few thousand documents might be manageable, but how will you manage when the count gets into the tens of thousands? With a document management system, documents can be found by searching the index criteria that identify the documents for precision search results.
Another problem with storing to a network folder is managing security. There are various legal requirements governing the access to the documents, user activity audits and for managing document retention periods. Ensuring documents and folders are not accidentally re-named, moved or deleted can be a big challenge in a basic file directory. Document management systems like Vasion provide easy to configure security that is much more granular that a traditional folder tree. Since the default Windows security and auditing tools were never designed to cope with the increasingly stringent government requirements for managing records a document management system is a must.
But beyond making it easier to store and access documents from a secure central repository, document management systems bring many other benefits. Some of the other features that make life easier are:
- Automated indexing tools
- Automatic document filing to the correct folder after indexing
- Auditable document workflow
- Version controls and tracking (without filling folders with multiple copies)
- Linking related documents together for complete file access from any one document
- Electronic signatures
- E-Forms to eliminate even more paper.
In the End
While electronic documents stored to the file directory does help reduce paper and provides handy back-up ability, it is still prone to large inefficiencies. The problems with the Windows folder tree grow with the tree itself, making management, security and document retrieval harder. Don’t take any chances! In the question of choosing between Vasion and Windows Explorer, go for Vasion to capture, protect, share and manage your documents without an increase in complexity (or loss of efficiency) as volumes grow.