What Is a Document Management System?

If your company is searching for the best way to organize digital files, read this first.

Think about a file cabinet. Its many drawers are filled to the brim with folders, which themselves are full of various documents deemed important enough to save. Imagine trying to find the file you’re looking for without any system of organization in place — how many folders would you have to open before finding the right one?

These days, most organizations keep their “file cabinets” online — or are in the process of digitizing important documents. The same rules apply: You need to be able to access what you’re looking for quickly and intuitively while ensuring it’s protected from unauthorized access. To do this, businesses use a document management system (DMS), but what is a document management system, exactly? Read on to learn more about electronic document management, including key features and top services currently available.

Find the best document management solutions for your business with our guide, The complete guide to document management systems.

New call-to-action

What is a document management system?

In the simplest terms, a DMS is the use of computer hardware and software to store and manage digital files. Of course, this gets more complicated once you start researching different document management systems and evaluating their features, but we’ll get to that in a bit. These systems vary wildly, so what’s right for a global conglomerate may not necessarily be the right solution for a small business.

What are the key features of electronic document management?

When choosing a DMS, you’ll probably start by thinking about scope and pricing — does it have enough storage? Is it far more than you need? Does it fit within your budget? While these are all valid questions, there are several other features you’ll want to look for as well:

  • Security: First and foremost, you need to protect your business’s proprietary information. One way to do this is with customizable restrictions that limit who can access your documents.
  • Storage: Depending on what documents you’re digitizing and organizing, you may have specific storage requirements; after all, X-ray files probably require different storage abilities than contracts. Make sure any service you use can accommodate the volume and type of files you need access to.
  • Easy organization: As your online document library grows, you need to be able to organize files in a way that makes them easy to find. Folders, subfolders, topics in alphabetical order, color coding — everyone has a different organization style, so make sure your DMS supports yours.
  • Accessibility: In order to support your entire organization, an effective DMS should be accessible from a variety of operating systems and platforms. This includes web and smartphone browsers, as well as ways to recover files or get offline access as needed.
  • Audit compliance: To ensure only authorized users are making changes to your documents and the system is working as intended, a good DMS should allow users to track a document’s history and see what’s different with every version.

Did You Know?:PC Mag called the fi-8170 a “first-class product” that’s “ideal as a front end for high-powered document archiving applications,” even awarding the scanner a coveted Editor’s Choice award. Click here to learn more.

What are the top document management systems for businesses?

Now that you know what features to look for, the next step is actually choosing your DMS. There’s no shortage of options out there, but we’ve rounded up the electronic document management solutions most commonly used by big businesses to get you started.

Google Drive

When it comes to usability and organization, it’s hard to beat Google Drive. You’re likely already familiar with Google’s suite of tools for writing and storing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, all conveniently stored in Google’s cloud. Google Drive’s business options include flexible storage space, so you can find a plan that’s tailored to your company’s specific needs. Drive also has built-in security features, allowing you to control not only who can view or download your documents, but also who can edit them.

DropBox Business

Like Google Drive, DropBox is a cloud-based file storage system with different options for individuals and businesses. It allows teams of varying sizes to work collaboratively, and every pricing tier includes advanced sharing controls, file locking, 180-day recovery, and at least three eSignatures a month. Storage options start at 3TB per month and go up to “as much space as needed,” with the top tier offering enterprise-grade security and a dedicated customer success manager.

Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft describes SharePoint as “your mobile, intelligent intranet,” and it’s one of the most widely used enterprise-grade document management systems currently available. It’s best suited for large organizations with complex teams, though getting employees up to speed on its various functions can be time-intensive. Boasting intuitive sharing and collaboration, SharePoint is designed to simplify complex processes and boost productivity in the process.


Originally founded in 2001, eFileCabinet is one of the oldest document management systems on the market. Over the past 20-plus years, this DMS has honed its intelligent organization features, offering businesses secure workflow automations that cut down on busy work in addition to document storage and organization. It’s well-suited to a number of industries and departments, but especially ideal for HR, finance, legal, and IT.


With more than 5,000 customers in over 100 countries, M-Files “intelligent content and document management” solution is used by small businesses, global enterprises, and everything in between. M-Files offers an easy on-ramp to cloud-based business and document management, with its intuitive software able to connect to existing systems without the need for massive data migration.

Did You Know?:The fi-8170 can scan up to 70 pages per minute and 10,000 pages per day. Click here to learn more.

Our recommendation: fi & SP Series Scanners

Those in the market for an electronic document management solution often have to start by digitizing years of physical documents, which can be a daunting task without the right equipment. We take great pride in having spent the last 50+ years researching, designing and developing some of the most advanced and powerful electronics in the world, including our professional-grade fi and SP Series scanners.

Built to purpose for the most demanding document handling jobs, fi and SP Series scanners are capable of processing tens of thousands of pages per day at the highest levels of accuracy. Their intuitive integration capabilities with all existing work suites minimize time-to-value for businesses looking to invest in tools that will pay dividends for years to come. Click here to learn more or shop the rest of our production scanner line.