There are two basic ways to establish a document management system for your office. You can acquire and install an in-house system or you could contract for a hosted document management solution. The choices for each of these are varied and there are hundreds of packages each with their own features to choose from. In the end it is about what system provides you with access and security for your documents.
How do you decide whether in-house or hosted document management is best for you?
Is your company comfortable with having your data located somewhere other than on your own premises? If your principals cannot sleep at night for worrying about where the data in your document management system is stored then an on premise solution may be the best choice.
The location where your users are located and the nature of the work being performed with the document management system may also be a good tool to help you decide. This one is not quite so straight forward as either form of system can work however if all of your users are located in one building or IT system and there is no need to support mobile users an on premise system may be more a good solution.
The contrary situation may lead you to decide on a hosted solution. If most of your users or a significant number of them are going to be accessing the system from remote locations then a hosted system may be a better solution for you. Since most hosted systems are already designed to operate with the web as their transport system they are ready to support mobile and remote users out of the box.
How strong your internal IT resources are may also be a determinant of which makes the best choice. Hosted systems by their nature are designed to operate with limited internal IT resources since the software and hardware are the responsibility of the hosting service. Depending upon the document management system which is chosen the administrative and IT requirements can be extensive. Knowing what resources you require will be an important consideration in any decision.
Capital investment requirements and how you plan for them become another important consideration in the decision. With an in-house system you must buy the software, buy the hardware and control and manage the system once it is installed. The capital cost of these components can affect how you decide to proceed. With a hosted system you may pay an upfront administrative cost to get running but generally you then only pay a subscription cost based upon what you use for ongoing operation.
The complexity of the workflows and storage design of your document management system will also affect the decision process. The more complex and integrated the document management system becomes the more potential that there is a need for an in-house solution. Most hosted systems are designed to work with standardized structures and with limited connection to other software and workflow tools in the business.
Acquisition is easier with a hosted system. You will be able to run a demo, see the configuration and understand the system without committing too much money or time. An in-house system is going to require more assessment, more understanding of the IT components and the creation of any customizations your processes may need. Your time commitment to get to installation will generally be greater with an in-house operation.
In the end the decision to go in-house or hosted becomes a decision about comfort and personal choice.
I have a client who has used a hosted system for over eights years in a regulated industry. They have had two audits by the regulator in that time and had no issues. They are comfortable with the security of their data. The hosted system costs them about the same amount that an in-house system would if amortized over three to four years; so cost is not a consideration. In the end it is the lack of the need for IT resources and the comfort with knowing the hosted system is professionally managed that tips the scales for them.
Do you have a document management system? Is it in-house or hosted? If you don't have one why not? Its your turn....comment below.