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What is an Electronic Document Management System and how it can help your business

electronic document management system
By James Rose. Last Updated June 17, 2024
Electronic Document Management System

Let’s face it, paperwork isn’t fun. Nobody likes having to sort through page after page of paperwork and it can easily get lost. When you’re starting a new business, you have about a million things to do - making sure your paper documents don’t get lost should be the least of your concerns. This is where an electronic document management system comes in to save the day. Ideally, you have started your business using one of these systems but, if you haven’t, converting to this kind of organization is possible. Keep reading for information on how an electronic document management system can help your business.

What is an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS)?

Before explaining how this must-have tool increases efficiency and can help your business and workflow, let’s start with what it actually is. An EDMS is software that organizes and stores different types of documents for you electronically. Think of it as an advanced, electronic version of a filing cabinet. By using an electronic document management system, thousands of files can easily be managed and stored, allowing users to quickly and easily retrieve documents when needed.

How do they work?

An electronic document management system works in a three-step process that includes:

1. Document and Data Capture – The documents can be stored by capturing them first from any source. More often than not, paper documents are captured through a high-speed scanner. They can also be obtained from emails by saving attachments. Metadata is usually added to these captured documents to better index them on an EDMS. This might include dates, topics, keywords, or any other classification system that may be useful.

2. Central Document Storage – After scanning and indexing the documents, it’s time for them to be electronically stored. It’s generally important that these electronic records can be accessed by many employees to allow file sharing and real-time collaboration. There is where central access comes into play. An EDMS can be set up for on-premises access or through cloud-based document storage so documents can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Document Retrieval/Distribution – The third step is document retrieval, preferably at a moment’s notice. This is when the previously categorized metadata comes in handy – EDMS’s use a search function for retrieval to easily bring up a document so you have it on hand as quickly as possible. EDMS also allows for file sharing via email or uploading and sharing through an app for easy distribution.

How Can an EDMS Help My Business?

Now that we know what an EDMS is and how it works, let’s consider how it can help your business

1. It helps your business run more efficiently.


Having to call a customer back or put them on hold for ten minutes to find a file is not helpful when it comes to time management. There are only so many minutes in a day to get things done so being able to quickly pull up a document can make a big difference.

As a business that is just starting out or even as a well-established one that’s been around for 20 years, there has undoubtedly been a time where you couldn’t locate a file that you absolutely needed. This could have resulted poorly for your business in terms of confusion between employees or money lost and may have even embarrassed you in front of a client. When you automatically add a file to an EDMS, you can retrieve it without having to sort through stacks of paper. The possibility of a paper file becoming lost is eliminated.

2. It saves your business money.

How does an EDMS save you money? After all, it’s just a digital filing cabinet, right? There are a couple of reasons why electronically storing documents could save you money.

The first reason is that physically filing and retrieving paper files takes up valuable time. The time that you’re paying employees to file documents can be put to better use and redirected towards productive tasks that strengthen your business.

The second reason is that you’ll need additional filing cabinets and more space as your company grows. An EDMS eliminates the need for the purchase of expensive physical storage systems.

3. It protects your business.

An EDMS is the safest way to store files – safer than storing them in your email or hard drive and certainly safer than loose files sitting in your office. We’re all familiar with the data breaches that have occurred in recent years and an EDMS is set up for safety and security. An EDMS also has an onsite backup if both physical and digital copies of your files are destroyed.

4. It aids in good compliance practice for your business.

Following good compliance practices is easy when it comes to choosing to store your files in an EDMS. For legal reasons and regulatory compliance, there is often a certain number of years you can keep files before you are required to destroy them. Keeping up with this time period is easy when your files are stored in an EDMS rather than tucked away in a garage or a storage facility. An EDMS can also be set up to automatically destroy files that are dated past a certain time period, automatically ensuring your business is in good compliance.

As we head further and further into the digital world, the need for physical files is slowly disappearing More and more businesses are choosing to go paperless, and for good reason – not only is it better for the environment but storing documents online also increases productivity, security, and increase collaboration opportunities. An EDMS streamlines the way your business is run and makes for much happier employees and customers.


James Rose

James is the co-founder of Content Snare - a software platform that helps professionals collect content & files from clients.

Once an automation engineer, his new priority is to help business owners regain their lives, be more productive and get more done in less time.