|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Small Business Document Management and Scanning
The long-talked-about paperless office remains a distant goal for most small businesses, which typically have to deal with a mountain of paperwork in the course of their daily operations.
Document management and scanning systems can help small business owners get a better handle on their paper documents, leading to increased productivity and lower costs.
In general terms, electronic document files offer a number of advantages over their paper counterparts. For instance, electronic documents reduce the need for file cabinets and the amount of time it takes to retrieve a document you need. Instead of grabbing a printed document from a folder, you can search for keywords or filenames and pull the necessary document right up.
If your documents are stored in a cloud platform, you can access them from anywhere you have an Internet connection. In addition, electronic files are generally more secure than paper documents. Using password protection and restricting who can access document folders on your network provides the digital equivalent of locking a file cabinet.
Many small businesses use role-based restrictions on document folders. For instance, only senior managers and the bookkeeper have access to financial records, while HR-related documents are similarly restricted to the appropriate team members.
If you have paper documents that you want to convert into electronic files, you’ll need a scanner to image the documents and software to process the image into machine-readable data.
The most effective scanner will depend on a variety of factors, including the types of documents you’ll the scanning most often, the volume of documents you want to scan on a regular basis, and how much of your time you spend outside your workplace.
For occasional light scanning, a smartphone app that uses your device’s camera can be a good choice for getting started.
If you typically work on the road and have a light scanning volume, a portable handheld scanner can be a great tool for capturing important information and reducing the amount of paper you need to bring back to the office.
Similarly, if you’re scanning business cards and receipts most frequently, dedicated devices designed for this use can save time and effort.
If you’re going to scan a higher volume of documents, you’ll probably want a desktop scanner with an automatic document feed. These will offer double-sided scanning and will help you convert a small pile of papers into electronic files in just a few minutes.
Regardless of your scanner, imaging the document is just the first step. Software will then recognize your document through a process known as optical character recognition that allows your devices to “read” and index the data within your new files so you can organize and find it.
Storing Your Files
Once your paper documents are converted into electronic files, you’ll need to organize and store them for easy retrieval. You have a choice of storing those files on an internal server, in the cloud or a combination of both.
On-premise storage may seem faster and more secure, but a cloud platform will likely offer greater flexibility and security for most small businesses. An effective cloud storage platform will allow you to provide the appropriate protection for your documents, along with the proper peace of mind that your important files are backed up and accessible online when and where you need them.
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