Document imaging databases are not the typical databases that most IT people are accustomed to. They are more complex and costly to maintain because they have an added element: a hyperlink to an electronic image located on the server. Furthermore, they are dynamic, with office staff continually opening and closing documents, as well as regularly adding documents to the system. And, if that were not enough, document imaging databases get extremely large, very quickly. These three issues; hyper-linking to an image, the dynamic nature of a document imaging database, and its size, makes a document imaging database time-consuming and expensive to maintain.
The secret that nobody wants to talk about is the magnitude of the hidden costs that are unavoidable with a document imaging database. Here are a series of questions that should be asked before you purchase a document imaging system, not after you encounter problems.
Who will do the manual repair of the database?
How much time will it take to make the repairs?
How much will it cost to make the repairs?
Do you have the expertise in-house to solve the problem?
If so, do they have the time to devote to this project and what other projects are delayed during the time they are repairing the database?
If not, who will you hire to solve the problem?
Historically, software companies have decided to discontinue supporting their software, which forces its customers to make expensive upgrades or to change vendors. If you are using a database system and this happens to you; what problems will you face in making a smooth transition to the new vendor? You will encounter two serious problems that document imaging companies don't want you to know about.
1. When you change vendors using a database system, you must go through a database-to-database conversion process. Again, the issue you face is one of cost. The costs can be as low as $10,000 to as high as $10,000,000. Due to the range of cost, this issue should be addressed before you purchase a system, not afterward.
2. A number of companies use a proprietary compression ratio on the images used with their systems. This allows them to charge a per-seat fee to retrieve and view the images. In these cases you can be charged a fee to move the documents from one system to another system. Again, this issue is one that should be addressed before you purchase a system.
We would recommend to anyone who is considering purchasing a database system that they negotiate the cost to move from one document imaging system to another, before the time of purchase. It can be disastrous to wait until you want to move your system to negotiate the price.
And, when evaluating a document imaging system, this should be included in the total cost of ownership.