Document Repositories: 5 Factors to Consider

You've heard of document repositories, and you know you need a document repository. So what are the next steps? In this article, we de-mystify document repositories, explain what to look for, and give you a sound option for your software choice: FileCenter.

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Article Summary

  • What is a Document Repository?
  • What is a Document Repository?
  • Document Repositories that Use Databases
  • Document Repositories that Use Native Windows Folders
  • Capturing Documents into the Repository
  • The Best Document Repository Software
  • Jump to our recommendation »

What is a Document Repository?

A document repository is simply a collection of electronic documents stored together. It can take on any number of different formats, depending on what file repository software you use. The important point isn't what it looks like so much as keeping it tightly organized and giving users access to what's inside of it.

These file repositories typically have one of three uses: important document storage, long-term document archival, and shared storage for documents that are in active use.

While document repositories seem simple on their face, there are a couple of key considerations to keep in mind if you are trying to figure out how to set up a document repository. We'll cover them in this article.

Document Repositories that Use Databases

The first consideration when setting up a document repository in a centralized filing system is how to store the documents. This becomes especially important if you are choosing software, since different software packages follow different philosophies.

We can break down document repository software options into two camps: those that use databases and those that don't.

The vast majority of software systems put the document repositories in a database. It's hard to say when this idea first originated but it quickly caught on among software vendors. They found databases attractive because they made it very simple to set up sophisticate security layers around the files in the repository. Any given digital file in the repository could be restricted to specific users or groups. For their part, users tend to like the idea of this kind of security, even though they don't tend to use it in practice.

Databases, however, come at a cost. The important point to understand with a database is that it removes the repository and all of its digital documents from Windows. A database is, in fact, a "black box" that can't be reached by your other Windows programs and, likewise, can't reach your other Windows programs unless the document software first releases files from the database.

This means that you are at the mercy of the software. If you have a favorite Windows program, you can only use it if the software supports it. In most cases, these repository software packages only integrate with Microsoft Office. And even then, the procedures for getting documents stored in the repository or retrieved from the repository often require more steps than users are willing to take. As a result, users tend to secretly save documents to their own machines, defeating the point of a centralized filing system.

Document Repositories that Use Native Windows Folders

The minority of document filing systems shun databases in favor of storing document repositories in native Windows folders. It is worth noting, however, that demand for filing systems that stick to Windows folders has seen a sharp increase. Why? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of keeping things simple:

There is a major benefit to setting up a centralized filing system using regular Windows. That benefit is access. With repositories and files in regular Windows folders, you can continue to use whatever software you want. Additionally, you have the option of mirroring your repositories to the Cloud using popular Cloud services like Google Drive, OneDrive, and DropBox. In other words, you can have Cloud repositories, a powerful option that isn't available if you use a database.

Centralized filing using the Windows filesystem also allows for easier migrations. You can typically pull your existing files into a repository without a complex import. And if you choose to switch to different software, there isn't a need to export anything.

The one downside from not using a database is security. Except that the native Windows filesystem already has sophisticated security mechanisms built in. You can restrict certain users from accessing certain parts of your document repositories. You can lock down individual folders or individual files. You can mimic most security aspects of a database document file system. In reality, most businesses have very few security requirements. They perhaps want a specific reposity restricted to management but the other repositores to be open. This is easily accomplished with regular Windows security features. Database security ends up being total overkill.

Capturing Documents into the Repository

Your document repository system should easily capture documents from any source. Typical sources to consider:

Paper. Make sure that any document repository system you set up comes with the ability to scan paper documents into the repository, preferrable with a streamlined a workflow as possible since scanning tends to be a major bottleneck.

Printing. Your repository should make use of a PDF printer so that you can capture digital documents from any source, including web pages.

Save As. The best document repository software will tap into the Save As function of any Windows program so that documents can be captured in their native format.

The Best Document Repository Software

The best document repository software, in our opinion, can capture documents from any source and easily pull them into the repository. It should make full use of the regular Windows file system instead of a database. It should be easy to deploy and easy to maintain without technical expertise. It should create a centralized data repository that is well-organized and easy to use, creating a digital document store that will suit your particular needs well into the future.

Our Document Repository Software Software Recommendation

Very few document repository solutions fit all of the requirements we lay out. And none as affordably as FileCenter. FileCenter has all of the features we describe and dozens more aimed at making it simple to manage your document repositories. Download a free trial today!

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