I’ve been a Worldox consultant for close to 25 years and Worldox has always been central to my consulting business. In the last five years or so, however, Net Documents has been making serious inroads in the Worldox market share. So perhaps its time to take a look and see why?
While much of the functionality of the two programs is similar, there are two core differences that are centrally responsible for ways in which the programs diverge.
• The first and most obvious is that while Worldox has always been an on-site, server based program, NetDocuments is cloud based: there is no NetDocuments client on the workstation, although in order to provide key document management features, NetDocs has had to adopt local components (“stub client” modules installed separately from an *.msi file – all the ndX modules are like this).
• The second is that Worldox is a centralizing and standardizing force. It encourages (enforces?) the application of firm-wide standards. This has the major advantage that all users can find information for any client using the same techniques. NetDocs, for all its talk about being “matter centric” has a much more “do your own thing” approach in practice although it is possible to configure it in a more restrictive way.
Interestingly, when you look closely, it becomes apparent that key characteristics of the respective programs are both their main strength and a central weakness.
NetDocs strength: it is cloud based. This means that you can work from anywhere, although there are a series of stub clients – ndOffice, etc. necessary to provide full integration and you have to configure browsers to integrate properly. So if you are visiting family and want to access NetDocs from one of their computers, the integration will not be automatic (although it will be possible to get work done). The cloud also has advantages in terms of scalability (which Worldox can’t match at present) and integration with other cloud programs. Being cloud based also offers advantages in terms of sharing documents with clients or others. Lastly, being in the cloud enables NetDocs to fix bugs and make adjustments rapidly and automatically for all clients (although not necessarily for the various ndX extensions).
NetDocs weakness: it is cloud based. This means a firm and users are hostage to their internet connection. For many firms, where a substantial majority of the work is still done in the office, NetDocs may be somewhat slow in terms of opening and closing larger documents and PDFs because they have to be downloaded and uploaded over the internet (the maximum speed of the best fiber optics cable connection is about half the maximum speed of an in-house network connection: if you don’t have fiber optics, you will be lucky to get 1/4 the response time of server-based programs). And of course any time a senior partner is uploading dozens of vacation photos or streaming video, the entire staff may take a performance hit. Every time you’ve said to yourself “the Internet is really slow today” – that would be NetDocs too. NetDocs recommends keeping your desktop clean and streamlined for speed reasons. Historically, there have also been issues with properly checking documents back in to the cloud after they have been opened to the desktop. Lastly, NetDocs will perform somewhat differently depending on which browser you are using, so training can be an issue.
Worldox strength: it is network/server based. By default, Worldox sets and enforces standards for the firm. No more confusion and lost documents. Worldox’s indexing program also allows qualitatively more sophisticated searches. In particular you can search your entire database (across profile groups and both legacy and active documents), or in the equivalent of folders/sub-folders, something NetDocs cannot do. So if you recall a particular provision or language you have used in the past, but not when or where you used it, Worldox will easily let you find it no matter where on your system it is.
Because network connections are faster than internet connections, your response time and general work conditions will always be better than the cloud. Worldox uses Windows macros in addition to more advanced integration (“APIs”), so that it is usually possible for tech support to integrate Worldox with any program on your desktop within 15 minutes or so. Since Worldox is not SQL-based, you don’t have to be an SQL guru to install and configure it. All the settings you will need are readily accessible either in the Admin program or *.ini files.
Worldox weakness: it is network/server based. This means that remote access is more complex than with a cloud-based program. To get remote access similar to NetDocs, an additional add-on product (Worldox Web) is currently required. Worldox requires additional modules or integration with third-party programs such as Workshare or LegalAnywhere to match the client portal and document sharing features of NetDocs. While Worldox has superior integration with desktop apps, its integration with cloud-based programs cannot equal NetDocs.
Worldox does have a full-featured cloud product whose operation is virtually indistinguishable from the server-based Worldox Professional. However it requires the installation of a minimal client in order to function, so it is not really relevant to this comparison.
Various Other Pros and Cons
Overall, Worldox and NetDocs functionality is roughly equivalent, although in terms of basic document management, NetDocs is still playing catchup with features Worldox has had for years (the recently released ndMail for example). This is probably not going to be a decisive area one way or another, unless there is a specific feature that a firm feels it absolutely has to have and is available only in one of the programs.
NetDocs “workspaces.” What Netdocuments refers to as “workspaces” are really just matters. Worldox automatically displays your recent matters/workspaces in a left pane. In addition, Worldox “Categories” can offer the equivalent of NetDocs “folders/subfolders.” This is mainly a question of taste rather than decisive functionality. To each his own.
NetDocs “folders/subfolders” can be an important issue. While the ability for individual users to create new folders/subfolders at will sounds very useful, it poses a conundrum for the firm as a whole. When an individual attorney creates a folder/subfolder for a given matter/workspace it is visible to the rest of the firm. So if this ability is implemented, then inevitably you will have conflicting/redundant “folders.” I had a client once that insisted on letting everyone create new doc types in Worldox: within a week they called back and said that they now had two doc types: “engagement letter” and “retainer.” Since these were manifestly the same thing, they wanted to eliminate one of them. The “do your own thing” approach reflected in “folders/sub-folders” will simply lead to chaos if implemented.
Advantage Netdocs: versions of documents can be different file types. This is primarily useful when you want to blackline two Word documents and save the resulting PDF as a version of one of the documents. Worldox does not let you do this.
An important feature Netdocs offers that Worldox does not is alternative word forms (search for “mice” will also find “mouse”). On the other hand, Worldox lets you search the entire document store, across different profile groups. NetDocs doesn’t let you do this.
Advantage Worldox. Salvage Bin. When you “delete” a file, Worldox lets you store it in an Salvage Bin (the equivalent of the Windows Recycle bin). This avoids both the “oh damn, I didn’t mean to do that” and the possibility of malicious deletions. The Salvage Bin can be purged at pre-selected intervals.
Linked/related documents. The NetDocs functionality is competitive with Worldox, but less robust than Projects. On the other hand, NetDocs subsumes some of the Project functionality in its tag and “folder” technology.
Third party links. Because it resides in the cloud, NetDocs offers basic built-in functionality that Worldox can match only through add-ins or links to third-party programs such as Workshare. This includes client portals and workflow processing functionality. NetDocs cautions that this functionality is meant for a limited number of documents, however. NetDocs’ “threaded discussions” functionality is largely matched by WDConnect’s collaborative editing functionality, and the WDConnect portal function is more robust than NetDocs.
The “look and feel” of NetDocs is certainly more fashionable than Worldox. For many people whose use of a document management system is simple and limited, that will be enough. However, for more sophisticated searches (across profile groups for example), Worldox’s “old fashioned” presentation contains more information and may be preferred. Thus for example, when you save a document each program typically requires you to fill out the same five fields (name, client, matter, doctype, author). But Worldox displays this in a popup in the middle of the screen while NetDocs tucks them discreetly in at the bottom of the screen.
Cloud vendors generally like to claim that their products are more economical but this is virtually never the case, although it is difficult to get an apples to apples comparison.
Worldox’ upfront cost is $460/user plus $100 yearly maintenance. So for, say, 30 users, the first year cost is 30x$560 or $16,800. After that, your yearly cost is $3,000. WDConnect (which offers a metadata scrubber and other functionality in addition to equivalents to some of the NetDocs sharing and collaboration features) offers a set of modules based on Workshare at additional cost. However, you do not need to match Worldox licenses, so your price for this will vary. This will be an additional $204/user/year. If you installed this for, say, half your 30 users, it would add $3,060 per year. This cost is stable since Worldox has a policy of never charging for updates, new versions, etc. So for this 30 user firm, the three-year cost is $22,800, the five-year cost is $28,800. Up to $25,860 and $31,860 respectively with WDConnect.
NetDocs is about $40/user/month or $480/user/year (although NetDocs may negotiate some on the price). So for our 30-user firm, the cost is $14,400 the first year, and the same yearly amount thereafter, or $43,200 for three years and $72,000 for five years.
Of course, with Worldox you are also paying for in-house IT and hardware. However, since it is unlikely that you would be getting rid of IT and hardware entirely, this saves a firm only a fraction of their overall IT budget and probably no salary. The consulting fees involved in setting up and maintaining Worldox and NetDocs are roughly equivalent. It is unclear whether your IT savings would amount to more than $8,000 per year.
The best product for you depends on your needs, both real and felt, and a realistic assessment of how the firm as a whole functions. If “the cloud” is an overriding priority, or if you have a larger firm with multiple offices spread out across several states, then NetDocs may be the way to go. Similarly, if a large percentage of the firm, including staff, frequently works remotely, then NetDocs might be a good choice. However, if the bulk of your work is in a central office, and remote access is useful only to a small minority, then the additional functionality and speed/efficiency of Worldox combined with its remote access or cloud options make it a clear choice.