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I am looking for a web based solution that allows me to run a web based database for (mostly) PDF documents (plus maybe a few MS Office documents). I've googled for "document management" (and for lack of a better tag tagged this question accordingly) but that's not it, as I do not need most of the features that are usually implied by the term document management system - to wit there is no need for collaboration, calendars, versioning, workflows etc. Rather I need something that builds a very good search index from the documents to allow authenticated users to find and download relevant information.

To give a short list of what I'm looking for:

  • completely web based solution
  • something with long term support
  • integrated user management (access only for authenticated users)
  • must support 1000+ users ("users" means people who search the database, plus maybe a few dozen people who upload documents)
  • commercial software/licence costs is okay (budget for running expenses is in the upper thousands/year. We're aware that there will be additional cost for implementation )
  • we start with some 1000 documents (as archives will not be migrated from the current database), documents will be added a rate of about 1000 per year
  • some of the documents contain sensitive information, so we are looking for something with a good record regarding security
  • software must be able to index pdf documents as well as allow manually added metadata
  • we must be able to sort documents into topics and give access rights based on topic (search should return only documents which the user has permission to access/download)
  • should use a template system that allows our frontend developers to integrate our CI (plus should allow for a responsive/mobile-friendly layout)
  • users should be able to save their searches and should be notified if a newly indexed document matches a saved search
  • simply structured search result page with a very good fulltext search that displays title and excerpt from the documents

The last bullet point is rather important to us - we run a survey in the current incarnation of the database and received endless variations of "I want a simple Google-like interface with a single text field, additional search filters should be a last resort and not something I have to use regularly". However it seems that pre-built packages usually offer more of a portal-like / intranet structure. In the past we have build similar solutions on top of open source packages (Drupal etc.) but our experience w/r/t security and long term support have been mixed a least so we'd prefer to buy something with a proven track record (if that is the right expression).

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Alfresco is probably the best for this scenario.

Alfresco Share search excerpts

  • Completely web based: Yes, either SaaS or on your company's own server. Additional protocols like CMIS are also available should you need them.
  • Long-term support up to 5 years, available directly from the Alfresco company or from third-parties
  • Integrated user management (access only for authenticated users): Yes
  • Alfresco is used for huge projects, for instance I know a project with 100,000 users.
  • Open source, pay for support
  • A million document is not a problem
  • Great security record, patches are available very quickly. A solution based on Alfresco has been certified Department of Defense 5015
  • Indexes PDF documents and many other file types, you can define your own metadata schema and edit metadata via the web interface
  • You can organize documents into folders, and give access rights based on folder. Search will return only documents which the user has permission to download
  • You can develop new themes
  • The web UI is not especially mobile-friendly, but there is an app that allows you to do what you want in a native mobile experience
  • Users can save their searches. New results will appear on their dashboard.
  • Search result pages show extracts around matches if you use this patch, it is not very easy to set up but it is doable.

Alfresco is used by many big companies who handle a lot of documents and can't tolerate any security failure: http://www.alfresco.com/customers

  • +1 for a very good answer (especially since our "mobile" requirement evaporated during the last meeting). I'll wait for a few days (and get informed about Alfresco) and if nothing even more interesting turns up Ill accept. Thank you! – Eike Pierstorff Dec 9 '14 at 11:47

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