Document scanning is an excellent option for any organization looking to free itself from the chaos and liabilities of paper documents. Converting your files to digital protects you from the risk of loss or theft, as digital files can be better secured and organized. It also allows you to save on storage space and gives you the ability to remotely access your files, making your organization more flexible and resilient

But where do you start? How do you know what kind of scanning would be best for the files you want to digitize? How much does it cost to scan a document? How much should it cost to scan a document? Is it better to do in-house scanning or outsourced? 

In this brief guide, we’ll summarize the options available to you and weigh the pros and cons of each. But first, we must make a distinction.

“Backfile” vs “Day-forward” scanning

If you find yourself needing document imaging, then you’re probably in one of two situations (or both). If you have an extensive archive of old paper files sitting around, it’s either taking up space in your own facility or costing you money to take up space in someone else’s storage facility. Turning that whole collection into digital files would save you money and space, and make it easier to locate specific files when you need them in the future. Scanning large batches all at once like this is “backfile” scanning.

Alternatively, you may need to create and use new paper documents as part of your normal business processes. The sooner you can digitize those documents, the less likely you are to lose them in the day-to-day business chaos, and the smaller your collection of physical documents will have to be. “Day-forward” document imaging solutions become integrated into your ordinary course of business so that new forms or receipts become part of your digital collection soon after they’re created. 

Option 1: In-House Document Scanning

To scan your documents in-house, you’ll need to find a scanning machine that’s up to the job and train a few of your staff on how to use it efficiently. Depending on the type and number of machines you choose and the number of staff you dedicate to the task of scanning, this option is widely scalable. It also gives you the most control over the scanning process, as every step is done by your staff in your facility. Once you’ve set up your machines and the process, you can move them from location to location as needed. This allows you to scan delicate or especially sensitive documents without transporting them, so you don’t have to risk damage or loss due to a possible accident during transit.

However, there are some notable downsides. Firstly, the downside of being in complete control of the process is that you or another member of your organization are responsible for administrating the process. This can be a headache that chews up valuable time and energy from you or your managers, especially if you’ve never done it before. Additionally, federal legislation around records management requires you to take specific steps and adhere to particular standards during this process. Learning all these regulations and ensuring that you follow them in your scanning process only adds to the headache. Consulting with an expert about how to scan your files in-house most efficiently can relieve some of this headache by providing solid advice and helping to explain what the regulations require of your process. 

This can be an excellent option for establishing a day-forward scanning process for the indefinite future. You’ll only need the consultant’s advice to get started; eventually, your organization will have its own experts! However, this option is less ideal for backfile scanning, as once you’ve finished scanning your archive, you’ll be left with unnecessary scanning machines you may have a hard time selling. Additionally, the training you put your staff through to develop an efficient and compliant scanning process will go unused unless you have more scanning to do in the future. 

In general, in-house scanning would be best for adding a day-forward scanning process to your existing business processes or for scanning delicate files that should not be handled or transported more than is absolutely necessary; or which you’ll need to retain after the scanning process. For a temporary scanning job, or if you’re on a budget, a basic scanning machine will only set you back a few hundred dollars (example). For a long-term solution, however, it’s probably best to invest in a higher-end machine with more functionality, which will probably cost between $1,000 – $2,000 (example). You’ll also need to include the cost of the software to run the machine, to pay the consultant and the regular cost of the staff who execute the scanning process. Altogether, it will likely be at least a few thousand to get started, plus a similar ongoing cost for staff and training, which could vary widely depending on the scale of your process. 

In-House Document Scanning
Pros:Full control over the scanning process; documents don’t need to travel.
Cons:New equipment and training costs, taking on all of the risks, likely less efficient than outsourced, 
Perfect for:Day-forward scanning; highly sensitive or delicate documents
Recommended Service:Consultation with Consentia’s experts

Option 2: Walk-in Document Scanning

Some office supply stores offer walk-in scanning services, such as Staples, or the UPS Store. These options are convenient for quick scanning of small batches of documents (i.e. <300 pages), but they’re not compatible with any volume of backfile scanning greater than a few hundred pages at a time or any volume of day-forward scanning.

They’re also not very secure, as you’ll be using a shared machine in public, surrounded by strangers. Depending on the confidentiality requirements of your documents, this option may be completely off the table even before considering the operational difficulties. If you need a small batch of non-confidential files scanned quickly, before you’ve got an in-house or outsourced scanning solution set up, this may be your best option. Otherwise, you’ll need a more robust, long-term solution.

Walk-in Document Scanning
Pros:Quick, easy, simple
Cons:Not recommended for any document batches larger than a few hundred pages
Perfect for:Occasional, small batches of non-sensitive files
Recommended Service:Staples scanner rental stations

Option 3: Outsourced Document Scanning with Consentia

Consentia has been providing digitization solutions for clients ranging in size and kind from large government organizations, to small and medium businesses, to private individuals. Our talented scanning team has experience working with urgent day-forward solutions, delicate backfile scanning, and everything in between. We offer flexible solutions that can accommodate your specific situation, and our experts can help you decide which solution will work best for you. No matter the complexity or size of the project, we’d love to help you bring your information into the digital world. 

Our staff have all passed criminal record checks, and our facility has multiple layers of physical and digital security. Our clients’ files are always stored on an air-gapped server, meaning they’re totally disconnected from the internet, thus making cybersecurity threats all but impossible. 

We take great care to meet and exceed the standards laid out in the relevant legislation so that your new digital copies are sure to be legally reliable. We also offer secure courier options to make sure your files reach our facility safe and sound. 

Your new digital copies can be returned to you on a secure removable storage device, via Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), or through encrypted cloud storage. If you already have a preferred cloud storage location, we can upload them there; if not, we can custom-build one to suit your needs. Finally, we also offer secure document destruction services through our shredding provider. Once we’ve digitized your files, you can either retain them or, if you’re satisfied with the new copies, we can have the originals destroyed for you. 

Due to the variety of options Consentia offers and our ability to take on projects of any scale, we’re unable to provide a specific cost estimate until we know more about your project. Contact us today via the chat box on our website or request a quote. We’d love to see how we can help!

Outsourced Document Scanning with Consentia
Pros:Maximum flexibility, security, and reliability; experienced and efficient scanning teams; top-of-the-line equipment; included shredding options.
Cons:Files will need to travel to our facility
Perfect for:Backfile or day-forward scanning of any volume, 
Recommended Service:Document Scanning with Consentia