Before you invest in document scanning and archiving software, consider the potential pitfalls and hidden costs of DIY scanning vs. outsourcing.
The Ultimate Guide to Document Scanning Solutions
Learn how document scanning solutions can help you simplify workflows, improve access, protect your data, and reduce operational costs.
Physical documents have many drawbacks when compared to digital files: they take up a lot of space, are vulnerable to damage, can’t be accessed from remote locations, can more easily be lost, and more. Due to these risks and inefficiencies, many modern businesses recognize the importance of scanning paper records (and files in other obsolete physical formats) and transforming them into convenient digital files.
Identifying the right document scanning solutions is the first step in the process of this paper-to-digital transformation. Don’t be confused by the terminology that is sometimes used interchangeably as you’re investigating scanning solutions. Document scanning, digitization, and conversion each refer to discrete services, although there is a meaningful degree of overlap between them.
Here’s a concise description of each process:
- Document scanning: Scanning is a technology process that involves capturing images of paper documents via a document scanner, multi-function printer, or more specialized equipment. This can also be called document imaging. Generally, scanning is done for the purpose of permanently digitizing those documents.
- Document digitization: Digitization is a broad term that includes the scanning, imaging, and adaptation of vulnerable physical documents like personnel records, old mail, maps, microfilm, microfiche, and so on in more durable digital formats that will preserve their data and relevance. The newly digitized documents must then be stored in some sort of database or document management system.
- Document conversion: The purpose of document conversion is to transform documents from one file type to another, typically to make them all more consistent and easily usable. Conversion can include the migration of any kind of analog documentation or unstructured digital files (e.g. PDFs, emails, faxes) into a unified, structured digital format. This streamlines internal processes, saves employees time, simplifies information management, and brings cohesion to document management systems.
All three terms are concerned with upgrading older and less efficient systems for storing information into newer systems that fit current trends in document management. Scanning solutions are growing in importance as our economy undergoes digital transformation. With the increase of hybrid work and the closure of brick-and-mortar offices on the rise, the urgency of scanning and digitization has only accelerated.
Read on to learn how document scanning solutions have the potential to simplify workflows, better protect your data, reduce operational costs, and improve your access to critical data.
Table of contents:
- What Document Scanning Solves
- What It Won’t Solve on Its Own
- Must-Haves From Your Document Scanning Process
- In-House vs. Outsourced Document Scanning
- Questions to Ask When Evaluating Document Scanning Service Providers
- Is Document Scanning Worth It?
- Why Work With Scan-Optics
What Document Scanning Solves
The realities of paper storage, filing, accessibility, and usability leave much to be desired. Document scanning can do a lot to reduce the lift for your team and better your bottom line. Here are a few of the main benefits of scanning hard copies and modernizing your records management with a vendor’s document digitization services.
- Save on storage space: Paper storage and document archiving take up a lot of space compared to digital documents. Scanning them all makes it possible to eliminate physical records, filing cabinets, and save on square footage. This streamlines office moves and may even make it possible to downsize to a smaller footprint.
- Reduced overhead costs: Printing costs money. Ink, paper, equipment maintenance…it all adds up. To make matters worse, as much as 30% of all workplace print jobs are never even retrieved from the printer. Going from analog to digital document management can potentially shrink your rent (less storage space), reduce paper waste, and minimize the cost of supplies.
- Improved speed and efficiency: Scanning documents into digital files makes it possible to more easily integrate information across various platforms and business areas, such as accounting, sales, legal, and HR. Employees can work faster and more effectively with fewer trips to the office, to the printer, and down the hall to retrieve, send, or collaborate on needed documents.
- Disaster recovery: You can more easily and securely preserve digital files than physical ones, reducing business risks. Paper is vulnerable to fire, moisture, misplacement, theft, and other threats, whereas a digital file can be backed up for simple disaster recovery.
- More convenient long-term archiving: Physical documents and media deteriorate with age and require extensive space to archive as the collection increases. A digital file can be preserved indefinitely and takes virtually no space.
- Workforce flexibility: Achieve operational and workforce flexibility with digital documents that are easier to send and share across an in-office, hybrid, or remote workplace environment. Any organization interested in work-from-anywhere must get away from obsolete paper processes.
- Reduce the risk of misplaced or stolen documents: Once documents have been scanned and digitized, it’s easier to share them selectively with access permissions in your document management system and robust cybersecurity measures.
What It Won’t Solve on Its Own
Document scanning is just the tip of the iceberg with what’s possible in your organization’s overall digital transformation. While scanning hard copies and recreating them as digital files can do a lot to improve processes and productivity, there are several things that will require further efforts to solve.
- Convenient remote access: While scanned files can be emailed with little trouble in their new digital form, this is a far cry from truly efficient remote access. You will need to invest in a secure cloud-based platform of some sort to easily store and share files for access from remote locations.
- Organization of the files: Scanned files are not inherently searchable and organized. Your document scanning (or “document imaging”) process will produce digital images. It’s then up to you to organize and file those images in a useful way with a well-structured database for storage. Without this separate effort, they’d simply be lumped together in one huge, uncategorized repository. A scanning provider may offer additional services to handle this process for you.
- Searchability of the information: Scanning is a start, but not all document scanning solutions are created equal. Optical character recognition (OCR), data capture capabilities, and document management software with search functionality are still needed to make the resulting digital files easily searchable.
- Document conversion: Scanning physical documents solves your paper problem, but it won’t ensure that all of your digital files (including pre-existing ones) are in a consistent and convenient format. A partner who offers document conversion services can convert all physical and digital files into a cohesive and unified configuration, improving compatibility and integration of info across all content systems.
- Security: A digital file is, in some ways, instantly more secure than paper. Scanning service providers can also offer their own security measures to ensure nothing is lost or misused during the scanning process. However, it’s still ultimately up to you to password protect, back up, encrypt, assign access permissions, and otherwise secure your newly digitized files.
Must-Haves From Your Document Scanning Process
Businesses need to undergo a well-organized, reliable, and accurate document scanning process to ensure that human errors are minimized and issues that are typical of scanning or conversion can be avoided. Here are a few of the non-negotiables as you evaluate potential document scanning solutions for your organization:
- A secure scanning process: It’s a mistake to view document scanning something that could be left to interns. Sensitive documents could be exposed to front-line employees during the scanning process, compromising confidential business or personal information, regulatory compliance, and more. The physical files being scanned should also be stored somewhere secure with controlled access.
- Accuracy during the transition: Human errors are a major risk when transitioning information from one format to another. For example, roughly 400 out of every 10,000 human data entries is an error and 82% of illicit data disclosures started with human errors. A careful document scanning process designed to eliminate errors and keep the work in expert hands is essential.
- Document enhancement: The best document scanning solutions will utilize advanced equipment and software for maximum legibility, clarity, and accurate representation of the originals in the scanned digital images.
- Minimal disruptions: A full-scale, organization-wide document scanning initiative could potentially have an immense impact on day-to-day operations until it is complete. A vast number of files may be involved. To ensure minimal disruption, consider whether scanning should take place on-site or off-site and opt for document scanning solutions that will provide a fast turnaround.
- Service Level Agreements (SLAs): If you’re outsourcing your document scanning process, ensure that SLAs are in place to guarantee that requests for records will come in a timely fashion and the project will be completed in an agreed timeframe.
In-House vs. Outsourced Document Scanning
Every major document scanning initiative begins with a decision point: Should we try to press ahead with in-house, DIY document scanning or outsource to a professional? Here are a few of the key considerations to consider as you evaluate each path:
In-House Document Scanning
Outsourced Document Scanning
Questions to Ask When Evaluating Document Scanning Service Providers
Evaluate each potential document digitization services provider with these six things in mind: quality, security, turnaround, solutions, support, and pricing. It’s important to establish priorities upfront to choose a service provider that can help you achieve your unique document scanning goals. Here are a series of good questions to ask:
- Will scanned files accurately represent the original?
- How do we know our records will be kept safe and confidential during scanning?
- Can you enhance old documents?
- What is a realistic turnaround time?
- Do you use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to make the digital documents searchable?
- Will you come to us and scan everything on-site?
- Can you scan everything (large-format documents, microfiche, photographs, etc.)?
- Will you store our documents during the scanning process?
- Where do you store the scanned images of the documents?
- What file format(s) will the scanned digital images use?
- What is your pricing structure?
Asking the right questions helps you to avoid common pitfalls from inexpert service providers or services and capabilities that are misaligned with your goals.
Is Document Scanning Worth It?
Scanning and digitization are critical to remaining competitive and productive in today’s business environment. This is an invaluable process for relocating to a new office as you grow as well as controlling overhead costs on a day-to-day basis.
Expert document scanning solutions from a professional service provider are worth it for many reasons:
- Reduce administrative burden
- Improve disaster preparedness
- Increase revenue with greater productivity
- Upgrade efficiency, quality, and reliability vs. in-house scanning
- Professional-grade facilities without ongoing costs to you
Put simply, you can better streamline, protect, and scale your business with a professional helping you make the switch from paper to digital document management. Migrating paper documents into a structured, digital document management system opens up productivity improvements and opportunities for deeper insights into your organization’s information. It can even support more flexible work models and hiring options in a hybrid or remote work environment.
If your partner’s scanning process includes optical character recognition (OCR) to enable digital indexing, it’s also possible to create an easily searchable database of documents — a far cry from the filing cabinet.
Why Work With Scan-Optics
Organizations on the hunt for an expert outsourced scanning service trust Scan-Optics for fast processing and incredible accuracy. As an expert partner with first-class customer service, we have the capacity to digitally transform over 4,000,000 documents every day and have successfully provided physical document scanning solutions for numerous clients across public agencies, municipalities, school districts, and commercial businesses.
Leave document conversion to the experts and ensure that your employees never have to organize a filing cabinet ever again. We’re ready to empower your team to keep their focus on what’s important — delivering results. Get in touch with Scan-Optics today for a free consultation!