Companies struggling with how to handle all their documentation want to know: What on earth is the difference between cloud storage and a cloud-based document management system (DMS)? The follow-up question is usually: which one does our company need? Let’s dig into the answers to those questions:

What is Cloud Storage?

By now, everyone has something in the cloud. Straight-up cloud storage is like a garage where you can store files and access them from anywhere you can input your security credentials. Whether it’s Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc., there’s no set organization, indexing system, regulations, rules, etc. You can set up an organizational system, or not. It’s up to you.

What is a Document Management Software System?

A document management software system might live in the cloud like those random files. However, instead of a plain storage space, the DMS handles far more complex tasks that companies need. From organizing crucial documents to verifying contracts, managing client relationships, establishing compliance with applicable industry regulations, monitoring quality control and product specifications, preparing for audits, and mining data from thousands of mission-critical documents to gain insight into every process within the company – document management software can truly streamline all paper-based, tedious office tasks to improve workflow.

Strictly speaking, a document control software system like this doesn’t necessarily need to live within the cloud. It could also live in a dedicated, on-site server. The company can choose the housing (cloud or on-site) and management tools it needs to manage its unique documentation challenges.

5 Questions to Help You Decide Whether You Just Need Cloud Storage or a Cloud-Based DMS

Essentially, the cloud is a metaphorical “storage garage” while a document management system gives you robust tools to manage all the documents you keep in that space.

Answering these five questions can help you decide whether you just need storage, or you need the tools a DMS can provide:

1. Do You Need Document Lifecycle Management?

If documents need to be routed to employees for review, approval, and training, a DMS automates this process and manages the document lifecycle for you. Document management systems empower collaboration, but control who sees what and when, and ensures that the most up-to-date documentation is in the queue.

2. Do You Need Document Security?

The ideal document control software will keep documentation behind several layers of security. Managers will be able to set permissions so that only authorized team members can access or update documents, creating an audit trail for verification.

3. Do you need to pull reports on your documents and data?

A document management software maintains comprehensive audit trails on your documents to track who has accessed a document, what changes they made and when. You are also able to pull reports on employee training, document trends, incomplete tasks and more. Managers can review and mine data that can be used to inform business decisions and streamline processes.

4. How About Quality Control and Regulatory Compliance?

If you have to manage your company’s regulatory compliance through FDA, ISO, etc., this points to a need for robust document quality management software. Maintaining quality control, safety regulations, and training programs that you can produce detailed reports on for auditors are core competencies for document management systems.

5. Do You Need Integration with Other Systems?

Do you need to integrate your document workflow into multiple systems? A flexible document control software can integrate with a variety of third-party systems such as ERP, MPR, CRM, PLM, LMS, HR, CR/CO and other document management solutions. Whether you need to transfer order numbers and product codes from an ERP to map product/packaging specs or import training content from an LMS to assign for review, a document management system is capable of this type of integration.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you likely need more than just cloud storage. A scalable, full-featured document management system that lives in the cloud is likely the answer to your document management problems.