Making the Paperless Office a Reality

The concept of a “paperless office” has gripped popular imagination for quite some time. Besides being environmentally friendly, the paperless office improves productivity and saves companies money. The advent of cloud technology has only brought that concept closer to reality.

This week we will look at a solution that brings the paperless office concept even closer. We will review FileHold, a document management software that claims to fast track your organization to a paperless office. We will look at its features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.

Beginning a Company

My initial thought upon reading about FileHold was that it was a relatively sophisticated solution. This is because it accommodates multiple user scenarios and has a vast array of features. That sophistication is a function of the founders’ experience.

According to Larry Oliver, President of FileHold systems, the company was founded in 2005 by a four entrepreneurs with expertise in document and records management software. After a development team was put in place, starting from a clean sheet of paper, it took 18 months to bring the first version of FileHold to market. “The business objective was to design and develop affordable electronic documents and records management software that would satisfy the needs of small to medium-sized businesses and large organizations,” he says. Because these are many different sizes of customers, with varying needs, the company decided on an highly scalable Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach to product development. This approach ensured that each module within the solution is extensible and scalable based on organizational needs. In addition to an on-premise solution, the company developed a cloud version of their product in 2007. “The cloud version, primarily offered by our reseller partners, offers a rich range of complimentary services such as document scanning (back filing) that we cannot provide with our on-premise version. Currently ready for Beta customers is an advanced version of the cloud offering based on the Microsoft Azure platform,” says Oliver.

The solution comes in two flavors: FileHold Express and FileHold Enterprise. While the former is targeted at mid-sized organizations (up to 20 users) or as a starter product for large organizations, the latter product can scale to large deployments accommodating thousands of users. “The Express edition has all the features and functionality of the enterprise product but at a less expensive entry cost,” says Oliver. He adds that the express version is often deployed as a risk free proof of concept to departments within large corporations to validate user acceptance, ease of use and effectiveness of transitioning from paper-based to digital workflows.

Available in both versions, however, are a range of functionality and features including electronic document workflow and approval, electronic forms (e-forms), tracking and auditing functionality, optimized search and document scanning capability that support over 300 different scanner types and MFCs.

Managing Documents With FileHold

In it’s most basic format, document management software enables you to create, review, approve, and archive documents through the document management workflow. The ease with which you can configure and perform these basic tasks determines the software’s utility. FileHold scores well on each task.

The solution uses a real-world storage mapping hierarchy system that mimics the physical office environment. Documents are organized into cabinets, drawers, folder groups, folders and ultimately documents. There is also an option to organize the document in virtual file folders so that simply by using the search function, users can create a virtual folder of like documents. It is possible to use the hierarchy based on an organizations needs. For example, a cabinet can be designated as a sub company name or department, the drawer can represent the year of document generation, and a folder can represents a client. In total the systems is delivered with 11 different user roles or levels of security. These roles range from a “read only” role to the Library Administrator, who does not need to be an IT person, but has authority to modify structure, create archival rules, provide user permissions and be alerted to document tasks. The overall system, including system security and back up procedures is typically managed by a Systems Administrator.

Documents can be added directly to FileHold from any Microsoft Office application including e-mail using simple “drag and drop” features. Documents added to the systems can have the properties of the document automatically captured as tags in FileHold. Once a document is in the system, a workflow and document review engine enables customers to deploy automated document routing or configure their own workflow. As mentioned earlier, the solution is relatively sophisticated as compared to other, similar solutions in the market. Thus, you can redact documents, insert E-signatures, or synchronize user rights with MS Active Directory.

Because the system makes extensive use of meta-data, searching documents is fast and easy. You can search in the system using simple strings or boolean keywords. The system processes search values based on metadata, document properties such as version and control numbers, and optical character recognition (OCR) to full text search for keywords. The optional FastFind feature allows users to trigger these same searches into FileHold from 3rd party applications such as Accounting or Human Resource applications.

However, my personal favorite in the system is the MyFileHold feature. Using this feature, you can track and manage your document sets within the solution. All you need to do is mark the document with a star and FileHold will create a shortcut to the document in your personal folder. In addition, you can also configure alerts for your favorite documents from this folder.

Oliver points out there are multiple browsers supported for mobile devices as a standard feature of the system. “The multiple browser support on mobile devices enables users to access documents in FileHold from anywhere in the world as long as there is an Internet connection,” he says. “The company will continue to support different technologies including the vast array of new mobile devices entering the marketplace. FileHold wants to ensure their customers will never be left behind in ‘The ever-changing IT world,’”

The Basics: What Does The Interface Look Like?

As I mentioned earlier, FileHold follows a real-world hierarchy for organizing documents. This hierarchy is fairly similar to the Windows explorer view. The Inbox also functions as a repository and staging area for documents. You can customize the interface based on your preferences and also manage online and offline folders using the explorer interface. The screen shot below shows FileHold deployed as a web part of SharePoint giving users the best of both worlds, the collaboration features of SharePoint and the records and archiving features of FileHold.

Documentation Support

FileHold has an extensive knowledge base on its website including user documentation and a library of videos tours. These resources help users become familiar with the software allowing them to perform basic and advanced tasks within the system. The company has packaged its implementation support and end user training for fast efficient installs.

The implementation packages (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), give users remote hands-on installation help and training. According to Oliver, FileHold has deployed more than 10,000 seats since June 2006 and its customers are provided with best in-class product support and upgrades. “FileHold receives unsolicited positive feedback on how responsive the company is to support issues, how stable the software is and how intuitive the software is to use,” he says.

Is It For You?

Having reviewed quite a few document management solutions, I must confess that this is one of the best, so far. The developers have thought out the details; it’s cloud availability makes this one a double whammy!

Our Verdict

Pros Cons
Excellent and comprehensive solution Integration with more productivity suites might be a good idea
Rating 9/ 10

Ratings: overall rating 4/5, ease of use 4/5, features 4.5/5, value 4.5/5 and ease of deployment 4/5

Try FileHold. Read the document management software review on