Another crucial tool in document management is search. This is important regardless of whether you use your hard drive and Windows Search or Microsoft SharePoint or another document management system with its own search engine. In larger law firms, they may license a dedicated search tool or use an open source one like Elasticsearch to retrieve information from more than one system at a time.
Search is for when you can’t browse efficiently to a file. An example might be an expert witness report or evaluation that is part of more than one matter. Which folder would it go in? Some document management systems flatten out the storage of files, taking an everything is miscellaneous approach. This works well when you have a document that may belong in more than one place. By using metadata, like tags or other information, you can connect it to more than one place.
Useful search will look at the full text of the documents and will create an index for faster searching. Not surprisingly, perhaps, these are not the defaults for Windows. You will need to go into Windows Search advanced features to turn on things like indexing full text, indexing encrypted files, and so on. You should also understand the powerful filters you can use to search by a particular time frame, type of file, or even to use natural language queries.
There are also desktop search tools like the open source Docfetcher and commercial ones like X1 Search and Copernic that often stand in for local e-discovery projects. These will index files on your local computer, and attached drives and over the network, and even dig into database-like files like an Outlook e-mail file (known as a PST file). These can be much more powerful and often have a viewer that highlights matching keywords, so you can quickly move through all your search results.
Search is one reason a document management system can be more compelling than regular folder structures. The search built into the DMS will mean that you have both the retrieval and organization tool in one system. Whichever way you go with document management, be sure that search is part of your plan to retrieve the work you’ve create and stored.
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