What is a Document Management System?


What is a document management system?

 A document management system (DMS) is an automated system for organizing, searching, viewing, securing, and sharing digital file types. Small businesses and large enterprises use document management software to carry out day-to-day business operations. Such operations are typically document-centric and require either the review and revision of files, the retention or archiving of files, or the creation of audit trails. It can also serve as a substitute for traditional document management processes that require the use of paper documents.

There are several types of applications that have integrated document management systems:

  • Accounting and Financial Software
  • Workflow Systems
  • Engineering Software.

The Benefits of a Document Management System

Organizations all over the world use document management systems to improve efficiency, productivity, and the morale of their employees. For this reason, we’ve taken some time to ask our customers about the benefits they’ve enjoyed since implementing our systems.

The Flexibility of Document Management Systems

Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) give workers the flexibility to complete projects without having to spend time focusing on the menial tasks associated with traditional document management procedures, including searching and finding files, making sure the files are the latest version, distributing files to others who may need them, and filing updated documents. Using digital files removes most of the paper documents from business processes, increasing project efficiency while helping organizations save on filing fees, filing cabinet office space, paper costs, and printer ink.

The Scalability of Document Management Systems

Document management software supports scalable growth in small to medium-sized businesses that find a massive explosion of digital and paper files, as well as those handling a large number of projects and locations of larger enterprises. Scalability is important in both business and engineering contexts where users must have access to project files wherever they are, whether working from home, at the job site, at the customer, or in their office.

As an entity increases in size, so does the number of digital files it manages. If an organization isn’t prepared to manage this growth efficiently and effectively, it is bound to see obstacles appear, reducing their ability to grow as an organization. Document management systems, like ImageSite, are completely scalable and allow organizations to handle thousands or even millions of documents. As the number of users grows, so does the system, allowing as many users as the organization requires.

The Convenience of a Document Management System

Working in a professional environment doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice convenience. In fact, in the professional world, convenience is often called “efficiency.” Every day the number of telecommuters grows and so does the need for convenient and secure access. Nowadays, it’s not often we see office workers and engineers collaborating in a single office space, so it simply makes sense to give system users the ability to work from their desired or necessary location. This, in turn, helps companies prepare themselves for growth or a global disaster, such as the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

Cloud document management systems also support cross-functional collaboration by enabling users to access their documents and workflows using different operating systems, such as Mac OS, Windows, or Linux. With the need to use mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, today’s users also need to get to their digital content regardless of where they are and what platform they are using, so access through mobile devices is essential.

Document Management Security

Information Technology departments are now always involved in application decisions, and top of mind is system and data security. In the mid-2010s, security breaches plagued the headlines, bringing to light the vulnerability of even the most well-secured organizations. The majority of these security breaches can be prevented by implementing basic security protocols.

When it comes to information security, document management systems provide employees with an added layer of protection. DMS solutions manage and control files in more secure locations than local computer drives or even network shares, allow users to manipulate files without downloading the files for viewing, editing, and printing, and by providing links to files rather than sending out the actual files. In addition, for users employing mobile devices, document management systems can even encrypt files stored off-line on the devices

Important Document Management System Features

When looking for the right DMS, it’s important to note no two document management systems are alike. Document management systems typically host different functions depending on the industries they serve and the functions they support (e.g., accounting versus engineering). When comparing systems, typically only a few document management providers serve the needs of specific industries or organizational functions.

Document Management and Workflows

Workflows are the fundamental building blocks of business processes. They are repeatable patterns of activity and require careful planning before execution. Historically, workflows were approached by diagraming a series of interconnected activities to allow workers to view visual representations of the steps required to complete their tasks. Today, electronic document management systems, such as ImageSite, allow workers to automate their workflows, using task assignment, approval processes, internal/external notifications, and overdue reporting.

Automatic Version Control

Electronic document management systems use automation to help companies manage processes where multiple versions of the same document or drawing are created. The software can automatically update the document’s file version upon the creation or edit of an existing document and prevent reviewers from viewing or making changes to a file that has already been revised. The system can manage the number of revisions held for historical purposes and automatically assign a version number based on the scheme used by the organization (including major revisions and minor revisions). Versions should also be associated with the transmittals, submittals, and workflows they are included in so as to always have an accurate audit trail of files sent, received, and edited over time.


Check-out/Check-in features prevent system users from editing the same version of a document concurrently, preventing complications derived from duplicated efforts. DMS’s should also allow for administrative overrides for occasions when checked-out files are needed by other users and check-in is not readily available. For CAD files, check-out should include reference files and the ability to similarly check out those files or download them as read-only.

Email Notifications

Email notifications are a great way to improve employee communication and task awareness. In a robust document management solution, like ImageSite, system administrators can configure the software to notify users when actions are taken on a document for many events, including, but not limited to:

  • Check-out/Check-in
  • Document Revision
  • Document Markup
  • Downloads
  • Viewing
  • And Much More.

Email notification is not only helpful for workflow management and third-party communications but can also help companies monitor privileged access to ensure their files are being handled correctly and securely.

Access Control

Access control prevents users without proper authorization from accessing files or documents for general or nefarious purposes. ImageSite DMS provides access control to be applied at the group, user, file, or metadata level. If configured to do so, administrators can prevent users from downloading, viewing, or printing files, ensuring compliance with both NIST 800-53 and ITAR 22CFR Part 120-130. The first step of improving system security is to ensure data is not accessible, or even visible, to entities that don’t have the permission to view and handle it.

What are Cloud document management systems?

What are Cloud document management systems?

Many organizations are transitioning to Cloud document management systems. Cloud DMS are similar to electronic document management systems, but with one key difference. The Cloud refers to software that employs the Internet as opposed to a local corporate server or on your local device and can be accessed using your Web browser (i.e., Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, etc.). Rather than storing your files on your device, Cloud systems store files and data on various servers across many data center locations, around the country and around the World.

For document management, companies use Cloud systems to store and distribute their documents without needing to maintain their own IT infrastructure while allowing colleagues to collaborate on the same documents from multiple locations, in real-time, without using a VPN or email.

Options for Document Management Systems

There are a variety of different options and licensing arrangements for document management systems, including On-Premise, Cloud, or SaaS solutions.


On-Premise solutions provide the comfort to IT departments that they have full control over the document management application and the infrastructure it is running on, as well as contributing to compliance requirements such as ISO9001 and DFARS. For applications like ImageSite, where there is no software to deploy, the installation and implementation of the application can be done quickly and easily, reducing cost and improving ROIs. 

Cloud Document Management 

Cloud-based document management solutions allow users to access their files and document anywhere, anytime from laptops or mobile devices, from an application running on a third-party data center, outside the corporate walls. The infrastructure is often managed by a third-party, not the corporation (though it does not have to), and uses the Internet as the primary means of communication between the user devices and the application. Software, such as ImageSite that has no client, allows for all application operations to run on the Cloud server while providing streaming images to the user’s browser without the need for local software, downloading of files, and web browser add-ins.

SaaS Solutions

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is a way of delivering document management solutions via the Internet. It is similar to Cloud Document Management, but is hosted and run by the application provider and allows users to gain the efficiency of using common software. The ability to have several organizations using the same application and infrastructure typically allows the software to be provided at a lower cost. In fact, many providers offer the software on a subscription basis (see below), that has a lower monthly cost and does not need to be capitalized by the organization.

Document Management Software

System Licensing Options

System Licensing Options

Named User Licenses vs Concurrent User Licenses

A named user license is an exclusive rights authorization assigned to an individual or organization user. For example, Bill and Sarah are named users on a 2-user system. Only Bill and Sarah are allowed to access the system at any time, and each has their own login credentials, and Joe is not permitted to access the system

Concurrent user licensing allows companies to purchase the software at a lower cost since it is based on the maximum number of concurrent users expected to use the software simultaneously. With a 2-user concurrent user subscription, Bill, Sarah, and Joe can all access the system, just not all at the same time. Concurrent licensing is a great way for organizations, who don’t need their employees to constantly use the system, to save money on document management licensing while also allowing for user accounts to be created and assigned to an unlimited number of individuals or organizations (again, the system only restricts the number of users on the system concurrently, not the total number of user accounts).

Concurrent user and named user subscriptions function exactly the same as their licensed versions. However, as a subscription, the user does not maintain a physical license and as such pays for the application service on a pay-as-you-go basis. (Though many providers require a minimum of one year of subscription, paid up-front.) Subscriptions are often lower cost as they are paid annually versus up-front, allowing for better cost control and don’t need to be capitalized on the balance sheet.

Who uses document management systems?

Document management systems are employed by almost every industry. Whether it be accountancy, legal, healthcare, construction, engineering, government, or education, there’s a document management system for you. Not all document management are one-size-fits-all solutions, since features vary based on the needs of each individual organization. ImageSite and Engine-Box are designed with engineering firms in mind, and unlike other systems, provides all the features needed by AEC (architectural, engineering, and construction), energy and utilities, manufacturing, governments, universities, and facilities management departments.