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What Is a Document Repository? Benefits, Set Up Tips and Best Practices

File drawer is emerging from a laptop screen. It represents an digital document repository

Maintaining organized and secure business documents can be challenging without a digital repository that acts as the single source of truth. So, what exactly is it This blog post will answer all your questions and explain why your business needs one. 

Table of Contents

What is a document repository?

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A document repository is a shared digital space that authorized employees access to retrieve documents and data quickly. A repository stores formats that range from Microsoft Word files and spreadsheets to photos and architectural drawings.  

With a centralized digital repository employees retrieve the documents they need instantly by searching keywords, metadata or fulltext or by navigating a well-structured folder system. Document repositories also provide robust backup capabilities and free up space that was used for storing paper files. 

Permissions based on individual status, roles and departments ensure that only the right team members can view, edit and delete documents. This protects private information from unauthorized access. With out this safeguard, your company runs the risk of falling out of compliance with data privacy regulations, theft of intellectual property and other data breaches.  

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What’s the difference between a document management system and a document repository? 

A document repository is part of a document management system (DMS) not a separate solution. A well-organized repository is the foundation that enables your company to get the most value from your DMS.

What is a document repository used for?

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A document repository stores documents, emails, photos, CAD drawings and other related information produced or received by your company. Using it eliminates time spent paging through paper files. Employees no longer leave their desk to walk to a file cabinet or a file storage room. There are no more misfiled or missing files. 

Document repositories provide a single, common resource, avoiding the need for multiple copies filed according to different guidelines in each department. Document repositories enable easy and efficient document retrieval for everyone involved in a process by applying consistent rules and naming conventions.  

A digital repository: 

  • Reduces paper usage
  • Organizes documents so they’re easier to store and find 
  • Protects documents and data from internal and external tampering Simplifies the way teams share documents  

What are the benefits of a document repository?

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Let’s take a closer look at the main advantages that a document repository provides. 

Organized documents and data 

Making the most of your document repository comes down to structuring it with attention to detail. Each document added to the repository is categorized according to a predetermined set of principles — a process known as indexing. 

Indexing uses document types you define, along with metadata which describes basic information about data, to group documents together in a logical order. The categories you assign are up to you. The aim is to make information retrieval as efficient and simple as possible. Index fields typically include metadata like document type, project or customer name, date created or received, and other terms your staff is likely to search. Related documents can share common index fields so they can be retrieved together with a single search.  

In addition, tools powered by machine learning speed up the indexing process by remembering document formats of structured documents like invoices from a particular vendor. So, every capture increases the speed, accuracy and reliability of the tool. After indexing a few documents with the same structure, capture is automated and consistent. 

Security of confidential information 

Document repositories provide automated backups, data and document encryption, secure file transfer, version control and audit trails. In addition to these security measures, assigning user permissions ensures that only the right users can access confidential information.  

This gives you complete control over sensitive data and the shift to digital storage protects your documents from damage, loss and misfiling. 

Better management of the document lifecycle 

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In a repository, you can use metadata to automate tasks like enforcing document retention schedules, monitoring when employee reviews are due and notifications of contract renewal dates.  

Version control 

With version control, users can always be sure they’re working with the latest copy of a document. It tracks changes and records who made them. You can also put permissions in place so that only certain people can make changes. Automatic numbering of each version and the ability to lock the final document ensures that the right document is distributed. This helps you prove document integrity if it’s ever questioned.  

Enhanced collaboration 

When all documents are stored in a centralized repository, multiple users can give feedback in one place. So, it’s easier to work together on a project. In addition, your document management system’s collaboration tools allow employees to collaborate in real time, add comments and share information with customers and business partners.  

Repositories can also support hybrid and remote work. With all documents stored in a central location, authorized employees can access relevant documents from the office or remotely.  

Streamlined business processes 

Your thoughtfully designed repository provides the basis for the process automation your document management system delivers. Audit trails keep a record of activities like approvals that workflows are aligned with your business rules. Automation enhances productivity and eliminates mistakes caused by human error. 


Using a cloud-based, digital repository enables your company to expand the system as your business grows. To make the most of this benefit, select software that allows you to add advanced features and add licenses when you need them. 

How do you set up a document repository?

Rocket taking off to represent the creation of a document repository


So, how does it all work? Let’s walk through a standard action plan. 

1. Gather your paper and digital documents 

First, you’ll need to collect the paper and electronic documents you’d like to import into the repository. At this stage, you can organize the documents into broad categories.  

2. Scan your paper documents 

Then scan your paper documents to convert them into a digital format. It’s important to use high-quality scanning equipment to ensure the text is readable. 

If you have a large amount of paper to scan, consider taking advantage of the expertise of a document scanning specialist. 

3. Create a folder structure

In this step, you’ll begin to organize your files for easy retrieval by establishing a folder structure. 

The way you arrange your folders will affect users, so make sure your framework is well-organized and easy for users to navigate. For example, you could set up primary folders for employee records, invoices and contracts. Under each primary folder, you can create subfolders to fit your company’s needs. 

4. Develop a naming convention and begin indexing 

Create a naming convention that will work across all the departments in your company. Plan carefully at this point as you’ll need to stick with your decisions over time to ensure consistency. 

General guidelines to consider: 

  • Keep file and document names short but descriptive 
  • Include unique elements like customer number or project name 
  • Make sure the purpose of the document is easy to understand 
  • Avoid commonly used words like letter, current or active and unfamiliar abbreviations  
Uniform data fields for each document type should include identifiers like:  

  • Document type 
  • Creation date 
  • Customer or vendor name 
  • Department 
  • Invoice number 
  • Customer number 
Once you’ve decided on your naming convention, you can start indexing your documents. In this step, you’ll begin to organize your files within the structure you’ve defined. Your goal is to establish a digital filing system where every document has a place and is easy to find. 

5.  Apply the same organizational principles to paper      documents 

Some companies choose to keep paper copies of documents such as tax records, contracts, licenses and those with a raised seal in addition to digitizing them. Use the same naming convention and folder structure for these documents. 

6. Your repository is rolled out as part of your document management implementation

Your repository is an integral part of your document management system and will be deployed along with it.  During the testing phase, you can ask members of the departments involved to work with the repository and give feedback. This gives you the opportunity to make adjustments before it is ready for real-world use. 

7. Train your team 

Explain how the system works and go into detail about the naming convention and overall structure you’ve created. Outline the expectations you have for storing files in the future to keep everything organized. Make sure you create documentation for easy reference. Also, hold training sessions for existing employees and create an onboarding program for new hires. 

Best practices for building a document repository 


Follow these best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of the repository and your document management system. 

Set strict user permissions 

Keeping sensitive information secure is vital to your entire document management process. You’ll want to set up access controls to ensure only authorized employees can view, edit, or comment on certain documents. So, assign privileges and rights to each user and establish how documents can be shared between employees, vendors and business partners. This is reliable way to keep confidential information secure. 

Reduce costs and increase efficiency with automated workflow 

Since your document repository resides within your document management system take advantage its digital workflows to speed up your processes ranging from invoice processing to employee onboarding and contract approval. Connect process steps to actions with automation based on your business rules and decision points.  

Audit trails record all activity

Audit trails track user activities like printing and deletion and the changes users make. These detailed records ensure accountability and transparency. This is especially important in industries with strict regulatory standards.  

Build a well-educated workforce

Making sure that a document repository works effectively is a team effort. If one user doesn’t understand the naming convention or categorization system you’ve put into place, even electronic documents could be misfiled or lost. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest time and resources into high-quality training and create a plan for familiarizing new hires with the system. 

Choose the right software 

You have several options regarding the document management system and repository you choose for your business. Take the time to evaluate the software and consider whether it’s user-friendly, encourages collaboration and has the capabilities your company needs.  

You’ll also want to look for a DMS that integrates with other business software and your overall technology infrastructure. Choose a solution that streamlines your workflows for increased productivity and facilitates fast storage and retrieval. 


A well-organized document repository is the cornerstone of effective document management. When departments across your company refer to the same information, it strengthens collaboration and eliminates duplication of effort. The centralized repository ensures that related documents aren’t saved in separate locations or buried in someone’s email box. You’ll also improve customer service because of fast retrieval of accurate information.  

Careful planning of the repository’s framework unlocks greater productivity and provides a higher level of security for confidential information. Using a repository also makes it easier to comply with legal and regulatory requirements for document storage, retention, and data privacy. This minimizes the risk of fines for noncompliance and potential litigation.

Learn more about document management.