Federal Document Management Moves to the Cloud

Document management systems have been around since the 1980’s when the term referred to the management of paper documents. These systems evolved to handle electronic files as more documents were being created on computers and scanning technology improved to make electronically capturing paper documents easier. They evolved more as the types of documents that could be stored expanded. The technology is always evolving, and document management is changing with it.

Cloud computing and storage is one of the more recent trends in the computer industry. It started around 2006 with Amazon’s launch of their Amazon Web Services and has just grown from there. Today, the terms “in the cloud” and “cloud-based” are almost ubiquitous.

In the Cloud

If something runs “in the cloud” or is “cloud-based”, it means that it is run on many different servers (possibly in many geographic locations) and can increase or decrease the number of servers it uses in response to demand. Cloud storage is similar: data is stored on remote storage systems and is accessible from anywhere on the Internet. The amount of storage is flexible and may be distributed geographically for resiliency or efficiency.

Cloud computing and storage is often more cost-effective than buying and maintaining the necessary equipment in-house. It also usually improves worker efficiency as people are able to access the data from anywhere on the Internet. This can enable collaboration amongst workers, another growing trend.

Given these cost and scalability advantages and the growing need for large storage and computing resources, it makes sense that document management systems have started moving to the cloud.

Government Applications

Today’s document management systems have to support an enormous amount of data. The Federal Government of the United States is one of the largest producers and consumers of information. As of 2011, the Federal Government employed 4.4 million people across all branches. The huge number of employees creates an enormous demand on the federal document management systems. It’s no wonder then that federal document management systems have begun to move into the cloud.

The Office of Management and Budgets (OMB) created its cloud-first policy in 2011 that required every department and independent agency move 3 I.T. projects to the cloud by June 2012. Lower costs, increased scalability and transparency were among its goals. Many agencies chose to move their document and record management systems to the cloud in accordance with the strategy.

In July 2013, FCW reported how the U.S. Interior Department, the first Cabinet-level department to do so, had moved its document management system into the cloud as part of that department’s I.T. Transformation policy. Officials in the Interior believe the move to the cloud-based system could save tens of millions of dollars of the $500 million that they expect the policy to save as a whole by 2020.


Besides the cost savings, the department is now able perform searches and analyses on their data faster and more efficiently than ever before. These analyses will allow them to make better, data-driven decisions than were previously possible. Hopefully, with all of these moves to cloud-based systems, we will see a more efficient and more cost-effective government as a result.