Keeping your business’s documents organized and securely stored can be difficult and overwhelming, considering the seemingly endless options for digital document storage and organization. Document repositories, which function as part of document management systems, provide an easy, secure way to store all your documents in one centralized location. Read on to learn what a document repository is, how it’s used, and how you can set one up for your own business.
What is a document repository?
A document repository is a shared digital storage space that can be accessed by approved employees. It is managed by users who have been granted administrative rights and controls.
Creating an organized document repository is a key part of having a document management system (DMS) that serves your business well. These repositories are typically organized with team members’ needs in mind, allowing them to search for documents by title or keyword, group documents by team, or use a folder system to store documents efficiently.
What is a centralized document repository?
A centralized document repository is an efficient way to save space and protect your important files in a single digital space. Doing so can accomplish the following:
- Reduce the amount of storage space needed.
- Simplify backing up and file recovery.
- Prevent human-error-based data loss.
- Provide security for sensitive information.
- Offer centralized access to documents.
How are document repositories used?
Document repositories have many uses, but they are most commonly used to ensure access to and protection for all of your business’s documents and files. Most companies use their repositories as a single place for all employees to access Word documents, emails, scanned files, PDF files, external data, CAD files, pictures and other graphics.
Document repositories can be synonymous with or used as part of a DMS, which is an automated way to store, manage and track electronic documents, as well as manage workflows, output systems and information retrieval systems. The repository is crucial, as it is where all the documents are stored, and as such, it must be accessible and well-organized for it to serve its purpose.
Microsoft and Google, both of which provide document storage, offer some of the best and most used business tools and technology, according to a business.com survey of business owners and leaders.
One of the main uses for document repositories is to reduce data redundancy and overcrowding of files on your desktop or local drives. A document repository gives you a single storage space shared among all of your resources and employees, ensuring that documents are not duplicated across departments, where they might hoard necessary space. Additionally, a document repository makes all of your documents searchable through indexing and tagging, which ensures that document retrieval is quick and efficient, no matter who is searching for the document.
Document repositories can also protect your documents against unwanted changes — whether from malicious intent or innocent errors — through version control, which tracks all changes made to a document and notes who made them. Administrators can set permissions to control who has access to which documents and who can make which types of changes. This feature helps preserve the integrity of your documents and ensures that all changes are made by appropriate parties only.
You can use your document repository system to share and distribute documents to your employees or even to clients. The system will allow you to send out documents in any manner you need, including via email or file transfer protocol.
What are the benefits of document repositories?
A document repository can provide several benefits to your business, such as document protection and easier collaboration among team members, all built into the system.
Indexing makes analyzing and organizing documents easy. This process categorizes and registers all your files via metadata in your filing system based on specific criteria you can customize, such as file function or size.
A document repository helps protect your information and files by encrypting your data, among other safeguards, since a data breach or storage issue that results in a loss of data or an unauthorized user gaining access to sensitive documents could be disastrous for your business. A document repository provides safeguards such as managed access control, an audit trail, automatic backups and password protection. In the event of a natural disaster, like a fire or flood, your files are stored safely in the cloud, away from physical harm.
A major upside of using a computerized filing system over traditional storage is the ability to scale, or grow, the system alongside your business. To take advantage of this benefit, however, you need to choose software that allows you to add advanced features later on as needed or upgrade to a higher plan so you don’t have to switch products. Learn about some of the best software options below.
A document repository makes it simple for colleagues to share and collaborate on documents even when working remotely. When picking a document management system, look for tools like live editing, file sharing, integrations with programs like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams, and access restriction.
If your business uses one of the top CRM software solutions or an ERP database, look for a single repository or DMS that integrates with these programs. This will make your daily workflow much easier by allowing you to access, edit, back up and monitor documents created within your CRM or ERP. Most electronic document management systems integrate with email programs such as Microsoft Outlook. [Find out more about document management systems as they relate to Microsoft products.]
6. Document retrieval
With proper indexing, finding a document in your repository takes mere seconds and can also allow employees to remotely access the documents they need. The problem with storing paper documents is that searching for the right document — when you have an entire business’s worth to go through — can be difficult, time-consuming and even cost you money. However, transitioning to a paperless office will only be beneficial if you employ digital systems like document repositories.
Using a document repository for your business will increase efficiency and strengthen document security.
How do you set up a document repository?
If you’re just beginning to create a document repository within a document management system, take the time to decide how you want to organize and name your files. Developing a structure for content management early on saves you a great deal of time — and headaches — later on and will make it easy for anyone in your organization to find the files they need.
Once you’ve chosen the document management software or platform you’ll use, follow these six steps to set up and implement your system.
1. Collect your documents.
Start by gathering all the documents you want to be stored in the repository. These can be digital or paper files (though you will need to scan any physical documents; see below). Organize them loosely — you don’t have to implement your entire system at this point.
2. Scan your paper documents.
If you have paper documents you want to store, scan them using a scanner built into your printer or download a mobile app such as AdobeScan, Dropbox or Genius Scan to upload them via your phone. A scanner will upload a digital file directly to your computer, while a mobile app will create a PDF or JPG file stored on your phone or an online storage site, and can be exported to wherever you need it.
3. Decide on a naming system.
This step is where you determine the finer points of your filing system, and it’s essential that you stick to what you decide. Consistent naming makes it straightforward for anyone in your company to find the document they’re looking for. Consider the document’s function, content, creation date, how long it needs to be stored and other key qualities when deciding how to name it.
Incorporating version numbers into your document titles can help ensure employees are using the most up-to-date files.
4. Index and sort your files.
Now that you’ve collected all the documents you want to store and decided on a naming convention, index and sort your files according to the organizational structure you want to use. The goal is to establish a digital filing cabinet in which every document has a home that is logical and easy to trace.
5. Integrate your paper and digital systems.
If you have both paper and electronic documents that each need to be kept in their original formats, sync your two systems so they work together as best they can. For example, scan all of your paper documents and store them in the repository so you have a backup in case something happens to your paper documents, and vice versa for an electronic record. Use the same naming conventions for both sets.
6. Get your team on board.
Once your system is all set up, make sure all relevant staffers are informed and trained on how the system works and how you expect files to be named and stored going forward. Consider holding training sessions or incorporating file storage training as part of your onboarding process for new hires.
What are open-source document repository solutions?
An open-source document repository is a document storage platform that can be shared as a public source and modified to meet a business’s needs.
Open-source software is typically budget-friendly, easily accessible for small businesses, and a flexible option that will work for many different types of companies. Here are some of the most popular open-source document management software providers:
Keep in mind, however, that using an open-source solution can pose security risks, compatibility issues and usability challenges. You’ll also likely have trouble getting product support if you run into any technical problems. We recommend businesses use one of the business-grade services highlighted below instead.
What is the best document repository software?
Here are some of our best picks for document management services, all of which provide document repositories.
- M-Files has a breadth of features, making it suitable for 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. Learn about the different packages in our full M-Files review.
- FileHold Express is an easily scalable service, meaning it can grow alongside your business over time as your storage needs expand. FileHold is designed for businesses with five to 20 users, so it’s perfect for small companies looking for an easy way to organize and secure their documents. As noted in our FileHold review, the vendor offers an appealing two-week free trial with tech support.
- Revver offers extensive storage capacity and a useful mobile app. The software is cloud-based, so you can access it from anywhere, which makes it an excellent choice for remote workforces. Revver provides valuable features like automated workflows, search functionality and customization. Check out our detailed Revver review for more information.
- DocuWare is an excellent option for larger businesses with multiple types of software they want to integrate with their document management system. DocuWare offers up to 250GB of storage, effective automation features and over 500 integration options. See a breakdown of the plan options in our DocuWare review.
- DocuPhase is a great solution for companies that process a large volume of documents. The software features advanced search and automation options, as well as helpful tools like automatic file routing, optical character recognition technology and a drag-and-drop form builder. Our DocuPhase review explains how the product can significantly boost productivity.
Sean Peek contributed to this article.