Google Drive and Dropbox are two very popular file storage and sharing tools, but are they an option for your ECM project?

Processes move companies of all sizes and segments. In the course of their execution, they permeate several areas and involve different teams. As a result, they produce different types of content, such as business proposals, operating procedures, contracts, engineering drawings and many others.

In order to increase competitiveness in the market, companies must foresee, in their strategies, consistent initiatives of Enterprise Content Management (ECM). This ensures that the updated information is available, in a simple and timely manner.

File storage and sharing tools, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, have become very popular with the advent of cloud computing. They are often the first alternatives for corporate users to work collaboratively and share their files and documents.

However, such tools were not developed for serving the corporate sector. The initial characteristics of simplicity and low cost can mask a number of shortcomings.

Companies have diverse needs associated with content, and storage and sharing are just an example of these needs. This is even more critical in companies in sectors such as food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Comparing them feature by feature, Google Drive and Dropbox fall far short as corporate solutions for enterprise or corporate content management.

In addition to storage and sharing, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions take technical aspects into account, such as information integrity and security. They also consider business aspects, providing more efficient processes, legal and regulatory aspects, which are handled in a specialized manner. In addition to centralizing all content, they allow for its control, monitoring and access to be more robust. This increases process accuracy and employee productivity.

Key Differences Between Storage and File Sharing Tools and ECM Solutions

Content availability

ECM solutions ensure complete control over documents and records. Even if the person responsible for the information changes departments or leaves the company.

File storage and sharing tools are generally adopted to meet departmental demands.

This exposes companies to the risk of a total loss of control over content when an employee leaves the company. Imagine that, from time to time, you may simply not have access to information on a project that has taken months of work. This can cause serious problems and leave the company in a very vulnerable situation.

Data security

With tools like Google Drive or Dropbox, generally everyone in the company has access to the same documents, and the controls are restricted to viewing and altering.

It’s easy to see how this can cause problems. For example, what happens when someone prints a restricted document, or generates different copies of the same document? How can you ensure that the latest version of the document will be used?

With an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, you can define a document control structure and establish different access privileges, defining who can review documents, change metadata, view or print, and who cannot do so.

Thus, in the same environment, documents of common interest will be managed in a totally different way from those of a confidential nature. This way you avoid a lot of problems before they happen.

In addition, ECM solutions provide a complete audit trail, providing data with all the information about the operations performed by the users.

This information cannot be changed or deleted and is available for future reference. It is possible to generate reports with full document history, allowing the company to clearly identify who generated copies, altered metadata or deleted a document. In the event of an accidental action, it can be easily identified and fixed.

Content process automation

Traditional solutions for enterprise content management have a great ability to standardize processes. They intelligently and automatically control the needs associated with creating, reviewing, approving, publishing and delivering different types of content.

File-sharing tools, on the other hand, are limited in many ways. For example: versioning, use of metadata, approvals, security and document consulting.

This makes the process more complex and vulnerable as the volume of documents and people involved increases. Many companies have no idea how much time their employees spend searching for information among Dropbox folders. In many situations, they end up using obsolete documents, simply because they do not know that the document is not up to date.

Google Drive and Dropbox have their merits. However, care is needed to determine whether storage and file-sharing services are advantageous when compared to the range of features offered by traditional ECM solutions.

The damages caused by their technical limitations can outweigh the benefits of low cost and ease of implementation. They can become a burden for companies that need to quickly adapt their processes to meet the dynamics of the market.

Marcelo Becher


Marcelo Becher

Specialist in Strategic Management from PUC-PR. Business and market analyst at SoftExpert, a software provider for enterprise-wide business processes automation, improvement, compliance management and corporate governance.

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