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Electronic Document Management System

In today's world of collaborative working, information seems to be expanding exponentially. This growth is making it harder to effectively and securely store information while still providing easy access to those who need it. The answer for many is to use an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).

The fundamental components of any document management system are data fields, records, files (also referred to as documents), folders and cabinets, as described below.

Specific pieces of information about a record are contained in data fields which are sometimes referred to as indexes. For example, this may include the date of a record's creation, an employee number or the name of the last person to amend the record. To completely describe a record, a set of data fields is required. These fields, sometimes referred to as metadata, enable the record to be easily found in searches and retrieved when needed. Single or multiple records may be contained in a file which can then be considered as a single document.

Groupings of files that are related to each other, for example by subject or function, are called folders. A collection of similar folders is known as a cabinet.

Dependent upon the purpose for which they are being used, EDMS are often referred to by other names. They may be described as a Content Management System, Records Management, an Information Management System or an Enterprise Portal.

The Features of an EDMS

No matter what name is given to it, any EDMS will be designed for uploading, storage and retrieval of information in a systematic way according to the organisations' internal demands and any legal requirements. A typical EDMS will contain the following characteristic features:

  • Tools that allow the capture and loading of information into the system.
  • Storage and archiving methods for files and documents
  • The ability to support and administer any compliance or legal requirements.
  • Organisation of documents via an indexing system.
  • Search tools that enable the finding and retrieval of information.
  • Security and access controls to stop unauthorised access to data.
  • An audit system to enable the tracking of the life-cycle of a document.
  • A workflow system that allows the automatic routing of documents to people or departments.

The Components of an EDMS

Typically, the architecture for the EDMS will consist of components such as servers, workstations and additional hardware elements designed to fulfil specific system functionality.

Network

Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN)

  • Used to connect the various EDMS components.
  • Acts as the gateway to the Internet.
Software

EDMS software may be assessed on the following levels:

  • Functional - all operations that the EDMS performs.
  • Administration - configuration elements to accommodate user requirements.
  • Interface - the ease with which the users interact with the system.
Storage

The critical component of any EDMS solution:

  • The storage system must be designed to include all working files and documents, backups and archived data.

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