CPA Practice Advisor: July 2011 Review of Document Storage Systems

Best Firm Fit:

The nature of the SmartVault model positions it as a solution that can be utilized in any organization. The existing integration with QuickBooks increases its value in firms that use QuickBooks.

Core Product Functions/Features: 

SmartVault is designed and delivered as a 100% SaaS solution accessed through a user’s browser. The nature of SmartVault is to provide users with a solution for securely storing and sharing documents online. Users can access files from a web portal or by mapping a drive to SmartVault so that it serves as an extension of a user’s Windows Explorer file structure. With this design model, it is very easy to get up to speed on SmartVault.

Two alternative views are available for accessing SmartVault content from the web portal: files and folders view and the advanced view. The files and folders view is intended for use by a firm’s staff, clients and authorized third parties to access documents and files online. One benefit of this interface is that it is common to all internal and external users, which helps to streamline the training process.


  • Cloud solution providing anytime, anywhere access & redundant data backup
  • Encrypted transmission and secure storage of files
  • Ability to map SmartVault folder as a driver for access via Windows Explorer
  • Integrated toolbar & SDK to develop integrations with virtually any application

Potential Limitations:

  • Utilizes traditional folder model instead of metadata to organize files


In the folders and files view, users can upload, download and view files to which they have been given permission to access. Users can also send links to SmartVault files to other users. The advanced view is designed for “account owners, managers and administrators.” This view allows the user to view, create and modify the folder structure and provide access permissions to other users (internal and external) as appropriate.

Firms have the ability to create the folder structure to meet their needs, which is very similar to Windows Explorer. Templates can be created and replicated as necessary. For example, a firm might want to set up a folder structure for tax clients differently from the structure for audit clients. Users with Adobe Acrobat can print and save to SmartVault using the Adobe PDF Driver.


The methodology that SmartVault uses to integrate with other applications is through a feature that allows for mapping a SmartVault folder just as a user would map to a network drive. With this feature, firms can save and retrieve files to/from SmartVault in the cloud just as they would store and retrieve files from a local drive through Windows Explorer. As a result, SmartVault provides integration indirectly with all Windows applications through the file save and retrieve functions. Additional integration is provided through the SmartVault Toolbar. This toolbar provides the option to store and review files directly from within QuickBooks. The new SDK (software development kit) allows other application providers to embed SmartVault’s document storage capabilities within their applications. Users benefit from storing their documents in the cloud, which gives them the ability to access their documents securely from a variety of applications or devices, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SmartVault supports integrated scanning with any TWAIN compliant scanner and has a unique integration with the Fujitsu ScanSnap line of scanners.

Advanced Functionality: 

All files are transferred to and from SmartVault over an encrypted channel that uses AES-256 SSL to protect their data.

Data stored in SmartVault is protected through the use of authenticated logins. SmartVault also uses the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) as an actionable framework to provide robust security processes that protect confidential data. This framework incorporates prevention, detection, and appropriate response to security incidents. This helps keep firms in compliance with many of the information privacy regulations. SmartVault provides folder-level access controls for users.

For disaster recovery protection, SmartVault maintains multiple encrypted, redundant backups of data. In addition, users can archive any folders or files on demand to the firm’s local storage device. A firm’s SmartVault portal can be branded with the firm’s logo, other images, etc.

Executive Summary & Pricing

The SmartVault model enables the system to serve as a useful file storage and sharing application. The process of enabling the sharing of external files is simple with this system. The ease of getting files into and out of SmartVault, along with the data protection services that are provided, make the value proposition easy to establish. Pricing starts with a free version of SmartVault Lite for a single user to have 25MB of storage and file sharing for 10 guests. The Professional plan is $69 per month for five users and includes unlimited “guests” to share files with, ability to custom brand the web portal, and includes 30GB of storage. Additional users and storage can be added to the plan at any time.

2011 Overall Rating