Scan Your Way to a Paperless Office

Does you office seem to be being buried under piles of papers? Though there has long been talk of the ideal of the "paperless office" it still seems to be that - an ideal, not a reality. However, with the advent of digital scanning, you can reduce the paper by turning your records into electronic images. Learn how to run a successful document conversion program to save money on records storage.

By Steven Hastert

Is your office submerged under a flood of papers? If so, you are not alone. Papers are accumulated everywhere: employees maintain a personal archive, each office maintains an archive and then there is an official company archive. Because of this, storage requirements for paper documents can grow at a rate of 20-25 percent every year.

Many companies look to off-site storage companies to store their documents and help with easy retrieval. This solves the storage problem, but can be very costly depending on the size of your business and how often you need to retrieve documents. While a truly paperless office may be years away, it might be time to convert your records to digital copies.

The advantages of digital archive include:

  1. Reduce storage costs: Eliminate the costs of storage space or the expense of an off-site storage service.
  2. Reduce retrieval costs: When documents are converted to digital files, they are more quickly found and can be accessed by any office or emailed where needed.
  3. Increase security: You can control access to digital files, and maintain a history of who reads any document. Employees don't have to carry copies that are easily lost.
  4. Regulatory compliance: Organisations now required to maintain appropriate security and controls for many company records. You can maintain every record on a "need to know" basis.

Digital Conversion

The process of scanning paper documents and converting them to digital images is called document conversion. Once scanned, the digital images are stored on a server or on removable media like tapes and CDs. This can be done in-house or with a scanning service.

There are several steps to the conversion process:

  1. Pre-processing: Preparing the documents for scanning, including removing them from bindings like folder or staples. The documents are arranged in sequence for scanning.
  2. Scanning: The physical act of creating the digital image of each page.
  3. Format conversion: Converting the scanned documents to the desired format. For example, PDF or Microsoft Word files.
  4. Indexing: This is a description tag placed on every document for quick retrieval.
  5. Quality check: Every digital image should be checked for readability. The indexing criteria should also be verified. If any errors are detected they will be re-scanned.
  6. Long term storage: Moving the digital images to a server. You should always back up and store the archive in a separate location.

Many companies find that a scanning service saves money over buying a high capacity scanner and paying employees to perform the work. A scanning service is also an expert on indexing and will make your documents easier to find after being converted.

Before hiring a scanning service, you will want to prepare a good specification that details the number of documents to be converted, the types of documents to be scanned, if the project needs to be done at your location and the required document image type. This will allow a service to give you an accurate quote and prevent any misunderstanding about your expectations.

Steven Hastert works for Record Nations, which connects businesses to document conversion services. He can be contacted at

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