DMS Blog Series, Part 1 of 5: What is a DMS?
What is a DMS? DMS stands for document management system, and it refers to the tools and processes process your organization uses to store and manage documents. MA modern DMS solution system will often offer robust search capabilities, metadata tagging, access controls, and increased security processes to protect files.
How Document Management Systems Work
In the past, document management for law firms and legal teams was a very physical system: Filing cabinets, boxes, shelves, folders, binders, scanners, thousands upon thousands of printed pages, and designated square footage in the office to hold all that and more.
Thankfully, DMS standards have improved. Now, most legal files and documents are captured and stored digitally, either in an on-premise or cloud-based system. These tools bring with them a variety of additional capabilities that are quickly making the DMS the backbone of the law firm.
Some of the key DMS features for law firms and corporate legal teams include the ability to:
- Create and edit documents
- Organize documents by matter or project
- Securely share and collaborate on documents
- Track version history
- Access workspaces and documents remotely
- Control user access permissions
- Apply custom metadata
- Find content efficiently
- Integrate with preferred software solutions
- Maintain advanced security and governance
With these productivity-boosting features, DMS users are able to streamline their workflows while staying focused on clients and outcomes. However, your mileage may vary depending on the type of document management system you choose for your organization.
Types of Document Management Systems: Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises
Before the internet was widely used, the only real choice businesses had for secure, digital document storage was an on-premises system.The primary benefit of “on-prem” is keeping total control of the system within your organization — but this can be a false sense of security for many organizations. While on-premises solutions are still common among law firms and other businesses, they are also expensive and difficult to set up and maintain. They require in-house server hardware, software licenses, security systems, and IT personnel to keep everything running smoothly and address issues as they arise.
Cloud-based solutions are growing in popularity as an alternative to on-premises systems. With a cloud-based DMS solution, the management and upkeep of hardware, software, security, and personnel are the responsibility of the cloud provider. Business users simply pay a monthly fee to the cloud provider to access the DMS via the internet.
The Benefits of a Cloud-Based Document Management System
In addition to significant cost savings, the cloud offers a variety of benefits over on-premises DMS solutions. Two are of particular importance for legal professionals: security and mobility.
While providers can vary, cloud-based DMS solutions are responsible for the security of their clients’ data. DMS designed specifically for law firms and legal teams place an even higher emphasis on security, compliance, and backups because they understand the strict standards of confidentiality that must be met. With the right vendor, legal professionals can have peace of mind that their most important data and documents are being protected at the highest level.
Mobility is also a great benefit that comes with using the cloud. Whereas on-premises solutions require users to connect to the office network directly or via VPN, cloud solutions make it possible for users to access their data from almost any internet-connected device. This gives lawyers the ability to work remotely with ease, increase productivity, and provide better service to clients.
For more on the benefits of remote work, download our eBook, From Perk to Profit: How Law Firms Can Implement Flexible and Remote Work.
Use Cases for Document Management Systems: Managing, Collaborating, & Sharing Files
The reality of the modern workplace is that nearly everything we do happens on our devices: We use them to communicate, research, create, collaborate, and so much more. Information is constantly circulating in, out, and through the office. Because of this, a DMS isn’t just where firms store documents — it’s where work happens.
Beyond mere storage, a DMS empowers organization. Legal teams deal with huge quantities of information and being able to quickly find and retrieve necessary information is vital to productivity and timely client service. A robust DMS can even make it possible to template workspaces so that new projects can be seamlessly integrated into the existing organizational structure.
As teams work together and collaborate, it is crucial to ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information. Passing multiple versions of documents between various parties can be a recipe for disaster, but a DMS makes it easier to collaborate with others by tracking changes and updates so everyone stays on the same page.
Finally, with cloud-based document management, not only can firms enjoy mobility across their devices, but they can also securely share documents within the team and with external stakeholders as well.
Your DMS: More Than Storage
With the quantity of files that even small firms must manage, it is clear that document management systems are central to legal work. Not only does the DMS allow firms to securely store and manage documents and data, it enables legal teams to be more productive and efficient. But that is not all: From increasing flexibility to improving the firm’s bottom line, there is a lot more your DMS can do for you.