Cloud Accounting Small Business

Current Roundup: Document Management for Accounting Pros

Written by Greg Lam

Having had to keep records for nearly 20 years now, I remember a time when it was all paper. I also remember when you’d print out email or online receipts, because either they weren’t acceptable to tax authorities or you didn’t think it would be.

Of course, times have changed, and business documents are coming in through email, online websites, smartphones, and — of course — your good old fashioned mailbox. The one nice thing about paper receipts in the past was that dealing with them was fairly straightforward — you file it away in your filing cabinet (or throw it in the proverbial shoebox).

Nowadays, it’s a bit confusing knowing where to store all the documentation. Do you keep it in an email folder, your computer folder, online storage, or one of the many software document management solutions?

If you’re an accounting professional, you may know that within the document management realm, there are several types.

General Storage:

  • Box
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive

Document Management:

  • SmartVault
  • Hubdoc
  • LedgerDocs

Expense Management:

  • Expensify
  • Tallie

Receipt Management:

  • Receipt Bank
  • AutoEntry
  • Shoeboxed

There are way more, but I list these because they’re the ones I have actually used and can speak to. On top of that, you also have document management that’s found within your accounting software itself, with file attachments being a commonplace feature.

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: That’s a lot of options to consider for what used to be done with a filing cabinet! However, unlike a filing cabinet, these services offer more than simply storing and organizing your documents.

General Storage

These are all-in-one general solutions and are probably most similar to that traditional filing cabinet. The players in this area are big companies, and accordingly deliver big amounts of storage (TBs instead of GBs) along with strong levels of support among many devices, whether it be your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can both access and manipulate your files from nearly any device in any location. On top of the multiple devices you can use to access your files, you can put almost any file type you want in your storage. This is important to consider, since many niche document management solutions can only handle certain file types. A good reason to use this storage is that, unless you’re storing large multimedia files, you shouldn’t run into file size limits.

You’ll find that many are already using these services, so sharing documentation or folders is generally a bit simpler, since they are familiar with the interface and already have an account created. Depending on the service and the plan you’re on, some are better at restricting access to documents than others. Some of these services also offer OCR, and if you’re using a service like Google Drive, you also get to use the powerful search technology of Google to easily search your documents.

What these services also do well is replicate your files across many devices in a reliable way. I’ve personally had the most success with Dropbox, which always seems to be able to precisely control which files I want on which device, and quickly syncs the documents among all my devices. Not only are your files available on local devices, but they’re also stored on the cloud. If you happen to accidentally delete files, many have ways to undelete them up to a certain period of time.

While I will talk about other document management solutions, I think it’s a given that your business would use one of these general storage products. I would personally be lost without them and I actually use all four listed.

Summary:

  • Multi-device support
  • Multi-operating system support
  • Low cost relatively to amount of storage
  • Virtually all file types supported
  • Fast and reliable upload/download speeds
  • Large amount of storage with large file sizes supported
  • Many integrations
  • Controlled sync of data amongst many devices
  • Some have OCR assisted search capabilities
  • Easy to share files or folders with others
  • Ability to add additional data to files is minimal
  • Undelete is usually available for a short period of time

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About the author

Greg Lam

Greg Lam is a passionate small business guy who loves technology and automation. He holds a BBA from Simon Fraser University, Canada. He's a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Xero Partner, and Kashoo MVP. His business interests are focused on online accounting and how it can be used to streamline and automate a company’s accounting processes. He currently lives in Tokyo, Japan.

Greg operates the Small Biz Doer website, an "Entrepreneur's Guide to Small Biz Bookkeeping." He is the author of Online Accounting Software: Finding the Right Match, published by The Sleeter Group.

Connect with Greg on Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for the well-rounded article. I too long for a more comprehensive and unified solution with all the elements you mention. I previously assumed that some online company had already accomplished most of this, but have found that none have. I’ll be waiting for one that does.

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