Choosing the Best Document Management Solution for Your Small Business

Which document management system is right for your small business? These comparisons of cloud storage solutions and document management systems will help you choose the right tool for you.

The idea of having a document management strategy has become an important part of operations for small businesses. Selecting the right solution is critical because it can really be integral to the internal workflow and operations of a business providing everything from the structure to organize and secure documents digitally, the ability to improve the customer experience and enabling synergistic workflow, remote work abilities, and business continuity capabilities.

As such, the document management solution you choose must support all of the needs of your business and not be simply a “cloud storage” application because these tools, some of which we will review below, do not provide the advanced capabilities and functionality of a robust document management system.

RELATED: What Is a Document Management System and Why Do You Need One?

To make it easier for you to compare some of the more popular cloud-based document storage and document management systems, we have divided the list below into cloud storage versus true document management systems to help you determine the right solution for your small business.

Cloud Storage Solutions for Small Businesses

1. Google Drive

While the use of Google Drive has become popular for both business (i.e. Google Drive for Work) and personal use, it is important to understand its functionality as predominantly a cloud-based file storage system with limited security and other key features of a document management system such as e-signature, customizable file structures and bank-level encryption for file transfer and storage.

On the plus side, this platform does allow for document collaboration, controlled user access to files, and synchronous editing, which means that users can work remotely on the same files without version issues. The major downside to Google Drive is that it lacks true task and workflow management capabilities as well as potential security and compliance issues.

2. Adobe Document Cloud

Adobe’s cloud-based document storage application Adobe Document Cloud is just what the name implies… a storage platform that also allows you to edit PDFs, but does not provide document management capabilities beyond basic sharing and e-signature capabilities. There are not any workflow, security, compliance, or advanced collaborative tools available in this solution. However, for small businesses that handle many PDF files, the advanced editing capabilities and e-signature tools may make an investment in this tool worthwhile.

3. Dropbox

Dropbox is a true cloud-based document sharing platform that can be used by both individuals and businesses of all sizes. Users can access files when they receive an invitation, even if they don’t have an account, and collaboration is possible as well. However, Dropbox does not have any advanced workflow features, e-signature, compliance, or other key features that would qualify it as a document management system, therefore, if a business was to select it for file storage, they would need other tools to be able to truly have a sound, secure and robust document management platform in place.

4. Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is similar to Dropbox and Google Drive, however, it’s strength lies in its integration with the Microsoft Windows platform (so if you’re a Mac user, you would need to download separate client tools). A benefit for Microsoft users is that you can sync your files with your desktop versions of Office applications as well as enable autosave to OneDrive.

When you put a file or folder into OneDrive, it’s automatically synced to the cloud (and your other devices). To share files you can provide a link to other users. However, Microsoft OneDrive is a true cloud-based file storage system. It does not have any of the functionality of a comprehensive document management system.

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Cloud-based Document Management Solutions for Small Businesses

1. Zoho Docs

Zoho Docs is a more robust document management solution than those cloud storage applications mentioned above, Featuring cloud storage and the ability to upload files by emailing them to email addresses generated by Zoho. The platform also provides some security options including password-protected files as well as virus and malware protection.

Although Zoho Docs is a solid document management solution, it does not offer the advanced workflow customization, security, or built-in e-signature features of other solutions, which are quickly becoming integral for small businesses that need to be able to use their document management solutions to ensure a higher level of business continuity, cybersecurity, and remote working capabilities.

2. Box (for Business)

Box offers several tiers of service, each one offering users different levels of business regulatory and compliance features, although the company does not specifically delineate its compliance capabilities which leaves users on the hook for determining whether the solution will help them meet their needs. Box does allow for some level of workflow automation and also offers unlimited storage, but it may not allow users to view and edit some types of documents. 

Box does allow for user collaboration and file locking, however, it does not allow for completely synchronous work on files, meaning version issues may arise. Overall,  Box provides some collaborative and remote workflow capabilities, but it fails to provide the full complement of tools that would be necessary for business continuation and a full-fledged workflow system customized to the specific operational needs of an organization.

3. SmartVault

Smartvault is a comprehensive document management tool that allows organizations to create a seamless, paperless document workflow customized to their exact needs. The power of SmartVault lies in its robust capabilities in all areas of document management—from online document storage and secure file sharing, to compliance and data security, and to productivity and business app integrations such as DocuSign, Outlook, Quickbooks, and more. The flexibility and functionality of the platform enable SmartVault users to easily address the unique needs of all of their business units, compliance requirements, and customer service requirements using one platform.

A unique benefit of SmartVault is its ability to meet FINRA-compliance (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and HIPAA-compliance needs. This means that even in highly-regulated businesses, SmartVault can help organizations meet their needs for security and compliance while also improving workflow efficiency, productivity, and collaboration.


As you can see, there are significant differences between a cloud-based storage solution and a true document management solution, as we outlined in part one of this article. It is critical to ensure that you understand the needs of your organization for workflow management, security, compliance, remote work capabilities, and document access and collaboration as well as business continuation when you evaluate the benefits of using a cloud-based document storage solution versus a true document management solution.

Be sure to do your own research and then reach out to the support teams at the platforms you are considering. They can help you understand the full functionality of the solution you are evaluating and then you can determine which document management platform is the best fit for your business.

About the Author
Dania Buchanan is Head of SmartVault, Global, and has served in leadership roles since the company was founded in 2008. In her current role, Dania is responsible for the culture, vision and growth of the SmartVault business, which became part of the GetBusy family of products in 2017. Dania has more than 30 years of experience in the technology sector, building high-performing teams across a wide range of channel and marketing strategies.

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