As more companies embrace digital transformation, many are turning to cloud-based document management to store important documents and files. Digitizing your document workflows with cloud computing can greatly improve your business's efficiency, save you money on file storage and make it easier for your business to grow.
This article will explain what cloud document management is, if it's a secure way to store files, and how you can implement a cloud-based service in your organization.
What is cloud document management?
To understand cloud-based document management, you must first know what document management is – the use of a computer system and software to store, manage and track digital documents. Document management systems make it simple to organize files by automating storage, providing collaboration tools, and indexing documents by type so that anyone in your organization can access any document anytime.
Cloud document management builds on this existing system by storing all files in the cloud, making them even more secure and easier to access. Your data is stored, managed and processed using a network of remote servers hosted online rather than on your computer or local server. A main benefit of cloud-based document management is that businesses get all the advantages of digital storage without investing in IT hardware.
Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Pros and cons of cloud-based document management
There are many benefits to cloud storage, primarily that it eliminates the need for your business to invest in hardware and related costs to securely manage your files. Cloud document management is generally budget-friendly, with no large upfront costs, and requires little management on your part for it to run smoothly.
It also allows you and your employees to access it at any time, from any device, and runs backups automatically in the cloud, ensuring that your files are always available. With seamless scaling architecture, your cloud-based document management system will easily grow (or shrink) along with your business.
The main downside of cloud document management is that you are dependent on your provider to keep your system up and running. If the provider has an issue with its data center, you could be prevented from accessing your files, and there really isn't much you could do about it.
Access to your files is also dependent on an internet connection. If you have limited, insecure or unreliable Wi-Fi, a cloud solution may not be right for you.
Is cloud document management safe?
Overall, and particularly in recent years as cloud storage has taken off, storing data and files in the cloud is a safe and secure method. There are some concerns about it, though, including the following.
- Security: Many business owners are unsure about using a third party to store their important data, especially since that information is repeatedly transmitted back and forth over the internet and could be susceptible to hacking.
- Technical issues: Service issues are an especially large concern with cloud storage because if the system is down, you are unable to access your documents, which can halt your work or at least slow down productivity.
- Internet dependency: Using a cloud storage solution means that you are dependent on an internet connection to access your files. If your internet frequently goes down or runs slowly, so will your document management system.
However, most cloud document storage providers have taken measures to address and eliminate these concerns from their products, making cloud document storage safe and secure as long as you take the proper precautions. A reputable cloud-based document storage provider will offer the following features to keep your documents safe:
- Role-based security
- Automatic backups
- Secure document sharing
- Access control and certifications
- Environmental control
How to keep documents safe in the cloud
These are the steps you can take to keep your data more secure in the cloud.
1. Do your research.
When you're deciding on a provider for your cloud document storage, research multiple companies. Read user reviews to see if the company has a good reputation, and see what security measures it has in place to protect your information.
2. Check for data encryption.
Encryption is one of the best ways to protect your data in the cloud. An easy way to utilize it is to have your browser or app require an encrypted connection before allowing you to upload or download your data. Look for "https" or a padlock symbol to the left of the URL in your web browser.
You should also see if the provider encrypts data stored in the cloud. Unencrypted stored data is accessible to anyone, so if you keep sensitive files such as legal documents or medical information as part of your business, you'll want a provider that encrypts stored files.
3. Understand how access controls work.
Another common security measure for cloud-based document management is access control, which allows a moderator to determine who in the organization has access to which documents. This ensures that each document is only shared with the people who are meant to see it.
The software can even track document versions, where the document is saved and who the file has been shared with. An audit trail tracks what changes are made to a digital document to further protect the integrity of the information.
It is your responsibility to understand exactly how access control works under each individual provider so that you can effectively plan how you will use it.
4. Practice good password etiquette.
If your provider offers password protection, take full advantage and use strong passwords that you don't use anywhere else, such as your email or Facebook account. Keep your passwords secret, and change them every so often if you can.
5. Frequently back up your data.
Though some cloud document management services offer automatic backups of your data, it's a good idea to do your own backups as an extra security measure. You can back up your data to another storage provider or your own external hard drive.
Best cloud-based document management solutions
There are many options for cloud-based document storage, all with different feature selections and price points. It can be overwhelming at first to determine which service is best for you. Start by taking inventory of your files and data, and make a list of the features you'd like your cloud document storage service to have, in order of priority.
You can then begin your research and narrow your options down from there. To help you with this process, here are our best picks for document management services that offer cloud storage:
- eFileCabinet is cloud-based document management software that offers a good user experience and secure storage at a low price point. It has a traditional cabinet-folder filing structure that makes it easy to use and a mobile app that allows you and your staff to access company documents from anywhere.
- M-Files is a comprehensive document management solution that provides a breadth of features to suit businesses of any size. Its cloud storage system is easy to use and boasts automatic updates, minimal maintenance requirements and significant security measures for electronic documents.
- Alfresco offers on-premises, cloud-based and hybrid document management software, making it a great option for many types of businesses. It syncs automated workflow and collaboration features in the cloud, making for a well-run and efficient cloud document management system.
- DocuWare is a flexible, straightforward cloud document management service that limits upfront expenses and offers an easy-to-use interface with a variety of features. The software is fully compliant with HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, GDPR and other regulations.
- Onehub was specifically designed for business needs. It offers granular control over data, role permissions and mobile access, giving you the ability to secure your data as you see fit. Onehub also has intuitive collaboration tools and a simple interface for easy use.
- Document Locator is an in-depth and feature-rich document management platform with plenty of integration options, role-based security features, a smart search ability, and the option to host your files in the cloud or on-premises.