From the June 2009 Issue
Just like the white snow melting into green grass, our perennial review of
document storage and document management solutions has become a key milestone
in the transition from winter to spring and summer. What a great time of year!
This also means we have completed yet another year of development efforts by
the vendor community. The solutions they develop to help you take your accounting
and tax practice “digital,” have become even more effective. So
our mission in this review and the companion review of document management systems
to be featured in the The CPA Technology Advisor in July, is to help you gain
a better perspective of what many of the leading vendors have to offer and some
of the enhancements they have made while you were busy laboring through another
productive tax season.
In these reviews we continue to face the challenge of trying to appropriately
categorize the solutions into comparable groups. That is much easier said than
done because there are so many good solutions and the depth and breadth of functionality
varies considerably. However, we have made our best attempt to provide meaningful
comparisons by separating the reviews between document “storage”
systems and document “management” systems. I’ll be the first
to admit that the line that separates them is much grayer than it is black and
white. So we’ll start by attempting to explain the differences between
the two categories.
When we talk about document storage systems, think of these as software applications
that are designed with the primary focus on managing the way you organize the
storage of your electronic documents, as well as other application files from
MS Office, Acrobat, etc. These systems are generally limited in their scope
of features, which makes them very affordable for the small firm or sole practitioner,
and better yet, quite easy to deploy and use.
In the July 2009 issue, we will review the more robust document management
solutions that are designed to fulfill the needs of the entire firm.
Document Management systems not only organize the storage of electronic documents
and files; they also provide extended functionality to integrate with tax and
accounting applications, and perhaps provide a portal component, workflow automation,
document retention and more. We’ll provide an in-depth discussion of the
features and functions of these systems next month. For now, our focus is on
the more simplistic document storage tools.
Since these document storage systems tend to differ considerably in the nature
of their functionality, we have rated them on four relatively broad attributes:
user interface, file organization/management, integration with other software
applications, and overall value based on the depth of functionality and pricing.
We have almost a dozen products in this review, so let’s get started.
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- AccountantsWorld – CyberCabinet
- AccountantsWorld provides an extended suite of web-based
applications targeted towards the sole practitioner and small firms to
provide their clients with comprehensive tax, payroll and accounting services,
all delivered via the web.
- CCH Small Firm Services – ATX/TaxWise
- This application is designed primarily for tax practices
that are using either the ATX or TaxWise tax preparation products. Either
of these products will integrate directly into the Scan&Fill product
for the respective product line.
- Drake Software – Drake Document
- The Drake Document Manager (DM) is included free
of charge with the purchase of the Drake Tax Software. In its most simplistic
form, you can use the Drake DM as a repository to directly print your
tax returns and store them. However, you also have the ability to set
up a folder structure to store any other files.
- eFileCabinet, Inc. – eFileCabinet
- This solution is what we would classify as a horizontal
document storage system. This means that it is designed to work in any
type of business, not just tax and accounting firms. However, due to the
fact that the founder who originally designed eFileCabinet is a CPA, accounting
firms continue to be its primary market.
- Intuit – Lacerte DMS & ProSeries
- We’ll kill two birds with one stone on this
review. The Lacerte DMS and Pro-Series DMS products are variations of
the same DMS platform designed by Intuit for the Lacerte and ProSeries
tax software packages respectively.
- Office Tools Professional
- Office Tools Pro is in a class of its own because
of the nature of the integrated suite of applications that are bundled
into one complete package. In addition to basic document storage capability,
OTP provides the following applications: contact manager, calendar, project
management, time tracking and billing.
- REDGEAR Technologies – ArkWorks
- ArkWorks is developed and distributed by REDGEAR
Technologies, the producers of TaxWorks professional tax preparation software.
In my opening remarks to this review section, I made the point that the
line that separates document storage systems from document management
systems is not black and white.
- ShareFile – ShareFile for Accountants
- SIDEBAR: ShareFile is essentially a file sharing
portal more so than a document storage application. Its core purpose is
to provide a secure online storage for files that are exchanged with clients
and others. My point being is that ShareFile is more likely to be used
as an extension of your primary file storage/management.
- SmartVault Corporation – SmartVault
- This is a niche solution designed specifically as
a companion product for QuickBooks. This is an online solution that integrates
with your locally installed QuickBooks software. The company just recently
announced the release of a client bookkeeping solution aimed specifically
at accounting professionals who provide client bookkeeping services.
- Speedy Scan Company Inc. – Speedy Organizer
- This is probably the simplest of all the solutions
reviewed in this article. Speedy Organizer is designed as a simple tool
to organize scanned images. The essential role of the product is to provide
an interface to assign index values to scanned documents to expedite search