Xythos keeps documents in compliance

Enterprise Document Manager 6.0 secures records while allowing easy collaboration

Xythos has always been a cost-effective alternative to traditional ECM (enterprise content management) systems. From its inception in 1999, Enterprise Document Management Suite has worked with ease and sophistication, including shared file folders combined with secure, offline access and other essential functions such as approval workflows. Moreover, Xythos' recent versions included enterprise features such as LDAP integration and robust APIs for custom development along with JSR 168 (portlets) and JSR 170 (document repository) support. While Xythos isn’t unique in offering these features, they still aren’t commonplace among document management products.

Version 6.0 takes an important leap forward by introducing records management so your organization can handle growing compliance requirements without making employees’ jobs any more demanding. Along with the records auditing and retention policies, Enterprise Document Manager 6.0 has more flexible roles, improved reporting, and now lets you archive e-mail messages and their attachments as records.

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Old style, new features

Xythos uses a proven architecture where metadata about documents is written to a database, while content resides in a file server. This isn’t what you normally find with an ECM system (usually, everything goes into the database), and it makes Xythos very scalable.

Enterprise Document Manager’s Web interface maintains the simplicity of prior versions. From a view that looks like a My Documents directory in Microsoft Windows, I quickly uploaded, managed, and shared documents. Each document has a secure file link (URL) that can be password protected and safely exchanged with business partners or contractors.

Using the toolbar, I created personal and project workspaces, established groups and added members, and shared files among colleagues, all in a few easy steps. Workspaces automatically inherit security settings, so there’s little risk of users compromising the system by having access to these capabilities.

Library services transparently handle core functions such as document version control. For example, users can save a file multiple times under the same name, yet still view all previous versions. As users upload and edit files, they use forms to add metadata that classifies documents. This information helps in searches, which can be saved for reuse.

The subscription function sends an e-mail notification when changes occur to directories and files, but I would like to see Xythos add other notification options, such as RSS feeds.

What I continue to admire about Enterprise Document Manager is the simplicity of its workflows. It’s extremely straightforward to build serial or parallel approval streams, select users, and specify other document characteristics, including due dates. Building on these processes, Version 6.0 makes documents "official" so you can manage them more rigorously. Compared to a standard document that might just have versioning, an official record (which might be the same Microsoft Word document) used to submit material to the U.S. Federal government for funding would have additional requirements, such as how long it must be retained.

To test the records management features, I selected documents I’d previously uploaded, and then clicked a button to turn them into records, a procedure that moved the files into a records management space and applied a “file plan.” During this process Xythos requested additional meta information, based on administrators' predefined requirements (there's a handy set of templates for setting those requirements). For instance, a university might require data about which school generated the document, a fact that needs to be tracked for documenting federal grants.

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Folders in the records management area are categorized by the content type (personnel records or medical documents, for example). What’s more, managers can use those folders to generate precise information for audit reports, perhaps a list of contact people for every record. As such, although Xythos follows Department of Defense 5015.2 records management standards, it is very appropriate for private sector organizations, too.

I used Xythos' templates to create various review and disposition rules and apply them to these records spaces. While rules can handle complex situations, they follow the same logical process as creating document workflows. In one test, I created a records disposition plan that retained documents for 10 years; however, I defined a rule that if the document’s originator leaves the organization, then a different phase of the disposition plan takes place. Paper documents (either physical documents or electronic scans) may be managed the same way, and e-mail can be imported and subjected to records management rules.

Xythos accommodates various review steps and reports at the end of the record-retention period. This is very important for a records management system, and normally associated with high priced systems, such as Documentum. In the case of U.S. government employees, for example, this solution requires extra metadata when moving information from departmental records management systems to the U.S. National Archives.

Standards support lends strength

When introduced in 1999, Xythos was one of only a few document management options. Now, document management is ingrained in desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and supported by portals such as SharePoint. Compared to midrange products such as Red Dot XCMS and Xerox DocuShare, Xythos still lacks certain features, such as Web publishing, that I'd like to see added.

That said, Xythos is very price competitive. Moreover, this solution’s strong development environment and standards compliance are uncommon in the document management world. By staying true to the fundaments of usability and extending them to records management, Xythos Enterprise Document Manager 6.0 remains a very good choice for managing large volumes of electronic files.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Value (10.0%)
Ease of use (25.0%)
Management (10.0%)
Scalability (15.0%)
Security (15.0%)
Features (25.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Xythos Enterprise Document Manager 6.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 8.0 8.5