UK bank Barclays has launched a cloud-based document management service designed to securely store its customers' most important documents out of harm's way.

Barclays, of course is still primarily a place to keep money but from this week users registered for online banking also be able to use the new Cloud It system to store bills, receipts, passports, insurance and motor vehicle certificates, and any other documents they value.

These can be stored in JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, Doc, Docx, txt, and more or less any other format except video or music files. There is currently no limit to the amount of space each customer can use although the bank said it might impose a cap in future.

Users will be able to set up free-of-charge SMS alerts when deadlines to renew certain kinds of document such as insurance or a passport become due. Files that exist only in paper form will need to be scanned before uploading.

Barclays hopes that the latter features will turn this from being seen as a glorified Dropbox storage space into a more featured document management experience.

“We all have so many bits of paper, documents and files floating around these days that it often feels like we need an extra spare room to house them all,” said Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays Retail and Business Banking.

“Chances are when you need to get hold of a document at the office, you will have filed it at home somewhere, if you can remember where you put it in the first place,” he said.  

A revealing aspect of the service is security. Barclays said it would use encryption but asked that customers should not apply their own before uploading files. Under the terms of service, files can’t even be password-protected or compressed. This is likely to be connected to the need to comply with a legal request to access files which does immediately beg the question of why some people would use it as a secure repository in the first place.

Barclays might point out that the same disclosure applies to other cloud storage and backup services although most do allow customer encryption.

The fact that people will have to devote a fair amount of time to scan and upload documents could also work against it. Digital filing cabinets are a great idea if people end up using them. Sectors that might still find the idea useful are small businesses and sole traders.

One current limitation is that the service will not be available to mobile banking customers although Barclays said it would integrate it into these services in the near future.