The cloud. It’s everywhere. From personal use of storing photos and music from our smartphones to syncing seamlessly with our desktops and laptops, it frees up a lot of storage space and eliminates the need for an external hard drive. But what does it mean for financial planning professionals who want to go paperless?
What are the considerations a firm owner or IT director needs to consider when going paperless? Are there advantages of cloud-based electronic document management systems, or are enterprise systems—which are housed on a company’s server rather than in the cloud—a better option for some?
Here, I’ll take a look at these options and help dispel the myths of both types of implementation to make the options more clear.
Enterprise document management systems—systems for which you buy paperless office software to add to your own system and infrastructure—are ideal for small and mid-sized firms that have in-house IT support and back-up servers to provide an extra level of security. They’re also a good fit for those firms that aren’t quite comfortable with storing sensitive data on the cloud, and for those that are waiting to see how effective cloud-based security systems really are.
If you’re the kind of person who waits until a manufacturer puts out a second generation of any given product (think Apple’s iPhone) so that they can iron out the wrinkles, you’re probably playing a game of wait-and-see with how the cloud performs when faced with potential security breaches. So, in the meantime, an enterprise paperless office system, like SAFE, that you can maintain on your site might be an option.
On the other hand, cloud systems, like SAFE CLOUD, have a few advantages over enterprise systems.
One of the biggest advantages is the often robust IT team that staffs the paperless cloud platform’s back-end. For firms that are just getting started or for those that outsource IT needs, having a team of experts backing up their cloud systems and monitoring the security and updating available features is often a benefit small businesses find attractive.
The paperless cloud option also provides less hardware upkeep as well as peace of mind for business owners in the wake of natural disasters; in-office equipment isn’t compromised and sensitive documents are kept safe, translating into dollars and time saved getting back to business as usual.
Evaluating the Solution
No matter what route a firm decides to take, out-of-the-box or in the cloud, there are three major benefits to managing documents virtually: increased efficiency, impenetrable security and immediate accessibility.
There are also a few standard questions you should ask as you research third-party document management providers. These include:
- Is the paperless office solution configurable? Is the electronic document management software designed to work with your current software? Does the paperless workflow in the solution interface well with your workflow? Any new system comes with a learning curve, so it’s important that the solution be as configurable as you need it to be.
- If you’re going paperless in the cloud, how often is information backed up?
- If you’re choosing a hard install of enterprise electronic document management software, how often is the software upgraded? What are the fees associated with an upgrade? Is there a yearly maintenance and support fee?
- For cloud-based paperless office solutions, what is the subscription fee to use the service? What does the fee schedule look like—is it per year, per person, or both?
- Is the paperless office solution scalable? Will it accommodate your business as it grows? If so, what are the fees for extra/additional seats?
- Does the electronic document management solution offer a mobile application? Business being what it is today, people need instant accessibility to key documents on the go. It’s important that a paperless office solution provider be in step with this need and provide a solution to make it happen.