Usage of electronic document repositories


I speak with many customers who rightly or wrongly approach electronic document repositories with the notion that their use will remove file servers and certainly file volume from their environments.  I’ve blogged about this before but this is becoming increasingly common so I’m going to repeat my views. 

It is very simple now within the windows shell to see document repositories.  In the image in this post you can see SharePoint document libraries and QuickR document libraries within explorer.  This allows us to save documents directly from applications into these repositories.  But will we?  We being the end user.  In order for these solutions to drive down the use of file server and local storage then customer behavior, corporate culture and usage scenarios need to be considered (especially for offline working). 

It is this influence in usage and culture within the organisation which will be interesting.  Once you have influenced the culture and use of these team based document repositories then like me you’ll find them an excellent tool.

This podcast gives an excellent viewpoint on this entire arena and an overview of an open source offering, alfresco.



  1. I agree, perhaps we need to force end users hand and redirect all files automatically to the repository (e.g remap drive C (and all other drive numbers) to the repository).

    Then you need to have a simple metaphor for On-line and Off-line and even simpler way to synchronise.

    Another problem with the folder metaphor is that many people use folders to categorise documents. Fine except when you have too many categories or when the same document is filed under multiple categories or when different parts of the organisation have different folder schemas.

    In Notes we use categories (with multi-value fields), but that concept also confuses end users because they wonder why when a document is deleted from one category that it also dissapears from the other categories.

    But with the folder metaphor it is more common to create duplicates of the same file just to lay them out neatly in multiple folders.

    I guess that is why these Repositories provide a search feature that bypasses the folder metaphor when it becomes too confusing.

    But as you point out, why would the end user change what is familiar if they don’t get an immediate benefit from making such a change.
    So in order to get end users to change, I suggest that we remove the choice and just remap everything to the repository. Most end users wouldn’t even notice that there was a change.


  2. Ian, I think this is where winFS and others were attempting to solve the problem by converting the file system into a database driven solution. I don’t think our panacea will arrive any time soon … even with the folder structure the problem always comes with agreeing between more than one person the best structure 🙂 this is where human nature, business requirements and technology clash … and I don’t know any organisation who have resolved this.


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