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Document Management 101

Understanding Document Repositories: Their Benefits and Limitations

Document repositories—understand their benefits and limitations for managing your organization's essential documents.

April 24, 2023

An open filing cabinet drawer full of cataloging cards.

Document repositories exist at every level of organization—from Fortune 50 companies to family households. Your personal ‘documents repository’ might be a messy pile of papers on the kitchen counter, but it’s a repository nonetheless. That is, it’s a centralized location dedicated to document storage. Businesses, however, need more than a pile of papers to keep things going. Their repositories need to be centralized, but also organized. And, it’s important to understand the limitations of repositories—traditional or digital.

What is a document repository for business?

At its simplest, it’s a place to put your docs AND organize them. It’s essentially a digital version of a physical filing cabinet. Chances are, you’ve already used a document repository like Google Drive, DropBox, or Box at work or at home. 

The advantages of a digital file repository

Today’s document repositories offer tools that put them leaps and bounds above a physical filing cabinet. Here are just a few tools, and the problems they solve.

Control access

File owners can choose exactly who can see, open, and edit files. Some tools let you control access on the folder level, while some give you control at the document level.

Show version history

Many repositories allow you to look at the history of who has accessed which files, and when. Within the file, you can often see specific edits with a history or track changes function enabled.

Search for files

We take this for granted now, but in the analog days, you needed to know where a file was stored in order to find it. Sophisticated digital searches now help you find documents, but in most cases you still need to know at least some words in the file name.

Maintain one copy

It’s much easier to have one ‘source of truth’ document filed in a digital system, especially now that edit access and histories can be viewed. If you don‘t like the latest version, you can typically restore a previous one.


A digital repository of documents, lets you quickly drag and drop files and folders, which helps while reorganizing or moving a document through a workflow, like switching it from a ‘to review’ folder to an ‘approved’ folder. But there are limitations. Organizing schemes are personal and everyone categorizes information a bit differently. If you’re searching for a file that someone else filed and don’t know the file name, you’ll be stuck guessing at where the file might be.

At some point, you’ll likely start to ask: “What if we end up reorganizing the filing system every time a new manager comes on?” or, “is there any way to file these documents automatically so we don’t have to train everyone on file naming and sorting protocols?” Questions like these indicate that you’ve hit the limitations of a document repository.

Think of it this way. Moving from a filing cabinet to a document repository is like moving from pen to typewriter: it’s an excellent first step. But if you want a giant leap forward, you’ll need to jump from typewriter to word processor. That’s where a document management system (DMS) comes in.

Digital document management

The clue to a DMS’s sophistication is in the word ‘management’. A repository of documents, like a filing cabinet, still needs someone to do the filing. That means staff to know where to file, how to format, who to notify, and when to destroy documents. The beauty of a DMS is that it takes care of these repetitive tasks so your employees are free to work on more complex problems.

Here are just a few ways that a document management system enhances digital filing with new capabilities. A digital management system can: 

  • Monitor an email inbox or folder for new files and sort them consistently, correctly, and automatically.
  • Control—to a greater degree than repositories—who can access, share, and print documents. This means a DMS is able to meet compliance regulations and prepare you for audits.
  • Receive formatted documents (think differently formatted invoices, for example), scan them for pertinent information, and file them accordingly.
  • Allow file search depending on the content of the file, not just the file name.
  • Notify people when it’s time to act on the file (give an approval or destroy the file for compliance reasons, for example).
  • Serve as a tracking system for physical assets like company laptops or vehicles. 
  • Create scheduled batch reports so staff can work on all approvals once a week, for example.

The key to a document management system is that it’s flexible and customizable. That means it can handle any number of use cases. DocuXplorer’s flexible pricing also means that smaller businesses can afford the kind of functionality typically reserved for enterprise-level organizations. As you research document repositories, keep in mind what’s possible in the world of information management so you can maintain a competitive edge in the digital economy.