Using a hosted records management application is a fantastic way to store, access, and use your data. The idea is wonderful: you put your digitized documents in a web-based system, get a few user accounts, and access your records whenever you need them and from wherever you are.

But what’s actually going on in the background of the hosted system? How does it actually work, who owns the data, and how is it protected? 

We don’t know how many hosted document management systems are available today, but it’s a lot. We’re not going to focus on all of the possibilities and variations of hosting but instead will focus on our own application, Digital ReeL. We created it, we maintain it, we improve it, and we sell it to our clients, so the ins and outs of our product are what we can accurately describe in this article.

Keep reading to learn how Digital ReeL hosts your data and what you can expect when you choose it for your hosted records needs.

What Is Digital ReeL?

Digital ReeL, or “DR,” is a records management application primarily geared towards archival collections, such as microfilm and microfiche. The “ReeL” part of the name comes from the microfilm reel, since it was originally created for microfilm records. 

In the beginning, DR was solely utilized for microfilm because of a unique way we presented the records: they were shown in their original format as a ribbon (or strip) of film, just as if you were holding the hard copy in front of you. This was to preserve the historical context but still use technology for ease of use and better access. 

Now DR can ingest all types of records including microfilm, microfiche, aperture cards, paper, and born-digital records, so it’s a platform for anyone that needs their physical copies scanned and hosted, or for someone that wants to provide already-digital data for hosting.

How Does It Work?

Most digitization projects follow a similar path, and below we’ll describe the major aspects of a conversion and how Digital ReeL comes into play.

If you have hard copy records, they need to get scanned and converted to a digital format. The exact scanning method will depend on the type of material you’re getting scanned (such as microfiche or paper), and this part can range from very simple to extremely complex. Once your records are scanned, they’re ready to be imported to DR.

You may have files that are already in a digital format and won’t need to scan anything, but instead will just need the records migrated. Some examples include a batch of PDFs on a network drive that you can send us on a USB, or it can be as complicated as porting images and data from one document management system to Digital ReeL (what we call a legacy data migration).

Whichever way you started (hard copy or already digital files), deploying the images and associated data is the next step. Involved in the deployment is utilizing the indexing scheme you scoped with us, which is how you named your files for later access. You may also have other features such as OCR text search deployed with your Digital ReeL dataset.

Once your DR application is deployed and ready for you, you’ll be provided access by our support team. You’ll be able to log in to your dataset from any web-connected device and review your documents. Depending on your user type, you may be able to create users, edit permissions, and carry out other administrator functions.

Security Is Our Priority

Your records and their security are a top priority for our team, and we’re constantly improving Digital ReeL and our network security to keep them safe. Some of the ways that we protect your data include:

There are numerous ways for us to set up access to your Digital ReeL account, but the most common is to assign a Master Admin from your organization who then assigns individual user accounts. Each user will have to log in with a username and password, and our audit features track each user, which images they access, if they make downloads, etc.

Additionally, you can create various “groups” within your application and assign users to groups to only allow them to see certain records. In this way, you can limit the access to your data based on individual user privileges.

Not all users are created equally. There’s a Master Admin User, then standard Admin Users, and finally basic Users. Even within variou types of user are functions to limit accessibility to various records, and to limit the functions a user is capable of. This tiered system allows you to protect your records through limited access.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) or “two factor authentication (2FA)” is available to you in Digital ReeL. By implementing MFA, your users will need to have not only their username and password to log in, but also a secondary source to verify they’re the actual user. This can prevent someone from signing in as a different user if the username and password is compromised; without both authentication methods, the account is inaccessible.

IP address filters can be implemented to restrict access to your account from only certain IP addresses. Examples include locking the IP to a physical office address (so your staff has to be in your office to log in) or adding an IP filter to a remote worker’s home office so they can do their work from that location only.

By adding an IP address filter you’re layering on an additional level of security so that if a username/password is compromised and an attempt to access the account outside of the allowed IP addresses is tried, access will be denied.

We have two hosting locations, one at our facility and another physically separated by hundreds of miles. When we host your records in Digital ReeL you get the benefit of this colocation setup and backup disaster recovery system. If one of our locations goes down, the other comes into play and you still have access to your data.

Saying we’re secure is fine, but proving it is why we utilize outside resources (third-party auditors) and conduct internal audits to confirm the security of our system. Below are some certifications and security items that we have:

    • SOC 2 Type II certified
    • CJIS compliant
    • NIST SP 800-53 compliant
    • HIPAA self-certified
    • Annual internal security audit

Reasons To Use Digital ReeL For Your Electronic Records

You have a lot of options when it comes to digital records management systems. We can’t say that Digital ReeL is the best application for everyone, but it does have its perks and some of the key reasons you may want to use DR for your electronic records are below.

When it comes to application features, we go with a “less is more” mentality. Only the critical functions you may need have been built into Digital ReeL, which prevents you from getting overloaded with options and things you’ll never use. A secondary benefit of having only a minimal amount of features is that the user interface stays clean, allowing you to get the most out of your images.

Having a clean, simple application allows us the capability to customize it for clients when it’s requested or necessary. Instead of having a bulky behemoth that is too complicated to customize, Digital ReeL is nimble and our team can create unique features based on the needs of our clients, still keeping with the “simple” mindset.

Many of the document management systems available are built for born-digital records or scanned paper files, not microfilm, microfiche, and aperture cards. Ingesting these archival records into a standard system can work, but the organization and indexing may be clunky and the historical context of the record is lost.

Digital ReeL was originally created for microfilm, and we’ve adapted that ability to virtually capture the entirety of the original record to apply to microfiche, aperture cards, books, boxes, and so on. You get the best of both worlds: the original record as it physically existed, plus the effectiveness and efficiency of digital technology.

In most cases we recommend the building block approach to our clients, which means keeping your conversion project simple and replicating how you access and use your records now. Because of Digital ReeL’s method of presentation and global text search (OCR) functionality, you can usually move forward with a basic project indexing/organization scheme and have everything you need. Compare this to the traditional method of scanning, and you can save a lot on costs.

The Parking Garage Analogy

A simple way to describe how Digital ReeL works is by comparing it to a parking garage.

We (BMI) built the parking garage (Digital ReeL). It started out as a lot, and we continued to build levels, improve the structure, and make it very welcoming for its users. 

People (clients) started to use our garage and would leave their car (their data) in the garage for various amounts of time. Sometimes a car would be in the garage for a week, sometimes for a few years. During that time they’d pay their parking fees and the car would be comfy cozy in the garage. 

At any time, these same people could get in their car and leave the garage! BMI only owns the garage, not the car. 

By looking at Digital ReeL in a simplified way (as a parking garage), it’s easy to understand how it all works. We’ve created a useful, secure place for you to “park” your records so that you can use them whenever you want, but they’re your records and you own them. If you decide to leave, that’s OK!

Next Steps

Want to learn more about Digital ReeL? Call us at 800.359.3456 or send an email to info@bmiimaging.com to talk to one of our reps and see how Digital ReeL could be the application for your electronic records!

Further Reading

Check out the below links for some more content about Digital ReeL:

“Traditional Microfilm Conversion vs. Digital ReeL” compares the “traditional” method of converting microfilm (PDFs, TIFs, etc.) to our Digital ReeL method. The article is focused on microfilm but is applicable for all types of records. 

“Digital ReeL Training Videos” contains 20+ videos showing you how to use the various features and functions of the application. 

“Choosing A Partner For Your Secure Scanning Project” describes some things you can look for when you choose a scanning partner. Security is important to you – make sure your partner thinks the same!