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The Best Enterprise Content Management Systems of 2016

Stay Organized with an ECM
The products you'll see throughout our Buying Guide

For this buying guide we analyzed the enterprise content management system (CMS) industry to find the major players, up-and-coming products as well as products that fit into a particular niche or that excel in a specific area. To be considered for our guide, the system must offer tools beyond simply managing documents. It must be able to manage a variety of file types and documents throughout your entire organization. The best enterprise CMS solutions integrate with other business processes and back-end systems, such as HR management, accounts payable and procurement.

Enterprise CMS software differs significantly from standard CMS. Enterprise CMS is intended to manage files and documents within a large organization, whereas a CMS is primarily used to publish content to the web. If you are looking for a content management system, check out our CMS buying guide. You can also read our articles about business software.

What to Look for in an Enterprise CMS

The decision of which enterprise content management (ECM) system to use is not a light one. This is a significant undertaking for your organization, and you will need to find an ECM that fits the needs of your particular business. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an ECM system:

  • Integration: An enterprise CMS needs to fit seamlessly into your company's existing infrastructure. How well it integrates has ramifications on how well you can continue using your current assets and add new supporting systems. If you can find an ECM that allows you the flexibility to use multiple databases, file systems, and servers, you will save yourself from substantial troubles down the line. An enterprise CMS needs to also integrate with the essential applications your business uses, including management, collaboration and creation programs. This will allow you to easily store the content and information created by programs such as Salesforce, AutoCAD, Microsoft Office and other programs that are essential to your business's day-to-day operations.
  • Core Functionality: At the most basic level, you need an ECM system that allows you to manage documents through the entirety of their lifecycle. How this is accomplished and the types of content you need to manage varies depending on your business, but all ECMs allow you to manage, store, and distribute the various types of content on your site. Look for ECMs that have a flexible taxonomy system that allows you to customize the metadata of the content you store. This makes it easier for employees to search and find content in case it's needed later.
  • Compliance: Ensuring your documents comply with various regulations is one of the most important things an ECM can help you with. Not only are you compliant with rules and regulations, but it can be a big help if your business is subject to an audit or is named in a lawsuit. An ECM allows you to keep all documents related to a certain project, like a loan, for example, in the same place, which makes it easier to access if there is a need to review them. Other compliance tools include multiple levels of administrative access and password controls.
  • Support: Because an ECM is an integral facet of your business, one that intersects with many different operations, finding a vendor that offers reliable support is critical. You want an ECM that offers global tech support, a wide range of educational and training documents (preferably in person and online) and quick troubleshooting of technical issues.
  • Pricing: Since ECMs are large-scale solutions, they tend to be pricy. There's not a one-size-fits-all solution and generally an ECM can be customized to fit your particular business. You'll need to contact the vendor to receive a quote, since pricing information isn't often posted.

Best Overall Enterprise CMS

OnBase, developed by Hyland Software, is one of the most complete ECMs on the market. It is one of the easier solutions to integrate into your day-to-day operations, including easy integration with Outlook. OnBase also has storage redundancies, so a document is saved in two places, which means if something happens to one file, a backup is available.

OnBase simplifies the process of categorizing your documents. If you've previously been a paper-heavy operation, scanning and categorizing documents is a big undertaking. OnBase has technology to scan documents and index them based on predefined keywords.

This ECM system also has excellent auditing tools, so you can view previous activity with files. OnBase, like many ECMs, is a complicated system, but Hyland provides an array of support tools, some of which include online training courses. Because of its well-rounded selection of document management features, easy integration and quality support services, OnBase is one of the best overall ECMs.

OnBase

Easily manage all of your business' documents with Hyland OnBase. This enterprise content management software offers a variety of tools to keep track of your company's information, such as full-text search capabilities, version controls and audit trails. It also has the ability to set permissions so only certain individuals can access and make changes to specific documents.

Read more here

Best for Document Management

M-Files is a widely used ECM that offers a versatile and complete selection of document and file management tools. M-Files integrates with Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce, AutoCAD and other programs essential to the daily workings of your business.

This enterprise CRM allows you to set up automated workflows so that when a document has been edited and approved, it can be sent to the next person in your production queue. You can set up different workflows depending on the needs of projects. Version control is available so you can track who edits a file and revert to previous versions if necessary.

M-Files can be implemented in a variety of ways. Depending on the needs of your business, you can choose between on premises, cloud or hybrid cloud. M-Files has a mobile app, which makes accessing documents by phone or tablet simple.

M-Files

Hundreds of documents are created, edited and shared in your business daily, which can make managing files a struggle. M-Files is an enterprise content management solution designed to take away this frustration. It provides a variety of features, including versioning, integration and mobile options so your files are easy to find and edit, and are secure.

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Best for Scalable Solutions

An enterprise CMS needs to be able to fit the needs of your business, no matter the size. LaserFiche is an ECM that offers different options for businesses of different sizes.

LaserFiche Avante is a tool for small to medium-size businesses with less than 100 users. Avante is a scaled-down version that includes workflow automation and integrates easily with Outlook, allowing users to drag and drop files into LaserFische.

LaserFiche Rio is best suited for larger businesses; it supports more than 100 users and is designed for businesses wanting to integrate an ECM with other core functionality, such as process management. Rio has advanced support options, audit trials, compliance controls and the ability to import content from mobile devices. Rio is priced on a per-user basis, and the price decreases as more users are added, making it a good option for a scalable solution.

LaserFiche

Laserfiche is designed to help your large corporation manage and secure its most important documents and files. This enterprise content management solution provides exceptional search capabilities, along with many security tools. Laserfiche also specializes in enhancing your company's workflow.

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Best for Collaboration

One of the most critical features of an ECM is the ability to collaborate on documents and projects within and outside of your organization. Huddle is one of the best ECMs for collaborating with a secure workspace that keeps all the tasks, content and communication tools in one accessible platform.

Huddle has automatic version control that ensures all contributors have access to the most recent version of the file. Previous versions of files are stored for easy rollback in case you need to revert to previous versions of a file.

One feature of Huddle that makes it stand out and really facilitates collaboration is the embedded comment streams on each document, which makes it easy to discuss revisions and deadlines on a specific project.

Huddle

Huddle's enterprise content management system is packed with a variety of management features and security options designed to ensure your corporation's documents are taken care of. This enterprise CMS provides many benefits, including mobile capabilities, version control, integration options and an extensive history. However, there are a few features it lacks, and it requires some experience before you can enjoy its full potential.

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Best for Customization

Alfresco is an open source enterprise CMS, which means that it isn't a proprietary software solution and thus can be customized and improved by your in-house development team. Alfresco is open source at any level so you can make adjustments to the content repository as well as the interface and the mobile app. A public API allows you to customize your process automation.

One benefit of open source software is the accompanying community of developers who work on the software. The community includes many resources, including documentation to assist in integration and installation.

Alfresco has different editions, so you can find a solution that fits the particular needs of your business. These different editions have different add-ons and modules for the specific needs of your business.

Alfresco

Alfresco is an enterprise content management solution designed to enhance your company's productivity and workflow. This enterprise CMS offers a variety of features and tools to help you more easily find and access documents, edit files and share data. It is a mobile solution and offers powerful security to keep your corporation's most important data secure at all times.

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What is the Difference Between an ECM and Document Management Software?

When searching for an ECM, you'll invariably come across mentions of document management software. While these are very similar types of programs, there are some key differences, including:

  • Document management software is primarily a repository for documents, whereas an ECM manages different types of files, including images, video, email and other media.
  • ECM systems are designed to handle and organize unstructured data. Many ECMs can create automatic categorization based on keywords and metadata in the files.
  • ECMs have more robust security options and are designed for industries at more risk for lawsuits and audits, such as universities, health care providers and law firms.

If you find that document management software is more in line with the needs of your business, read our reviews here.

What Factors are Critical When Choosing an Enterprise CMS?

At first glance, many ECMs appear very similar, making the decision about which solution to adopt difficult. The core functionality of an ECM, the ability to manage and categorize files, can vary in implementation from product to product. Here are the critical factors you should consider when choosing an enterprise CMS that fits your business's needs:

  • Storage: This factor depends on the size of your business and how much data your business generates. Many ECMs are scalable, but as you increase the storage capacity, price also rises.
  • Collaboration: An effective ECM can reduce information from missing and make it accessible across the entire organization. If you work with contractors or freelancers, you want an ECM that allows for external collaboration.
  • Ease of Use: If a program is confusing and unintuitive, it makes its adoption within your organization slow and difficult. Look for an ECM that offers the functionality you need in a simple interface. Most ECM providers offer free demos, so you can evaluate the software before you purchase it.
  • IT Infrastructure: Because ECMs store a large amount of data and become a critical part of your business's data management, the question of where and how to store that data must be considered. Most ECMs offer on-premises, cloud or hybrid options. An on-premises option is stored on your own network and servers. If you scan a lot of documents, that may be a good choice. A cloud-based system, which resides on off-site servers and usually accompanies a SaaS-based ECM, doesn't require as much setup, and the hardware costs aren't as expensive as an on-premises system. A hybrid system, a combination of cloud and on-premises hosting, is a good option if you want to host the ECM yourself but have clients and partners who use the SaaS model.
  • Training: Because these are complicated programs that intersect with many different departments in your business, you'll need to train your employees on how best to use the ECM. Look closely at the training resources the ECM provides. Many offer documentation and interactive online courses. Some offer onsite training options.

An enterprise CMS is an integral component of many businesses. These programs allow you to manage, categorize and collaborate on the content that is essential to your business's operation. This buying guide contains a selection of 10 excellent enterprise CMS platforms so you can choose the one that fits your business best.