In today’s digital age, physical documents are often a drag on the pace of business. Though there are a few places where paper is still the best option, most information is stored and processed digitally. Whether you’ve got a backlog of old paper files, or an ongoing stream of new papers to manage, document imaging is how you can bring your information into the digital world. In this article, we’ll break down the importance of document imaging by looking at the top 5 ways it can benefit your business.

5 – Incredible Storage Efficiency

Most of us already know that digital documents are far easier to store than paper, but rarely do we recognize just how great the difference is. One way to think about it that we’ve explored in a previous blog is to imagine all of the pages of documents that a single, one-terabyte hard drive could store as printed papers all in one place. Using Microsoft Word for this hypothetical, you could store over 80,000,000 pages in a single terabyte. That’s a big number, but what would that look like in reality? If they were all printed on 0.05mm thick paper, double-sided, the stack would stand over a full two kilometres tall, roughly the height of three Burj Kalifa’s (the tallest building in the world, at 830m). When you think about a terabyte of data, remember just how much paper it’s worth. 

Add to that the ability to organize and search through these files instantly, without having to flip through dozens of pages to find what you’re looking for, and it’s clear that digital files make for more useful information systems.

But space is not the only concern; what about cost? Many people think of paper as negligibly cheap, but as even a small organization knows, buying paper in bulk can be expensive. Printers and cartridges are also expensive, meaning that any business processes that include the creation of new paper documents will have to account for ongoing costs. Finally, if you ever want to archive your old files in a secure facility, paper files will take up a lot of space, and require rigorous physical security measures. By contrast, cloud storage solutions are both cheap, and easily scalable, should you ever wish to expand the archive.

4 – Greater Utility

Paper documents can be used for a lot of things, but they still can’t compete with the flexibility and broad applicability of digital files. You can print or write whatever you want onto a paper document, or type or draw it into a digital file. But you can’t search a sheet of paper for specific words, instantly duplicate it or its contents, or compute and analyze its data, unless you digitize it. There’s a whole world of powerful digital tools that you can use to enhance your operation or streamline your processes. With document imaging, these tools can be used to leverage the full potential of your information by freeing it from the confines of paper pages.

3 – Preservation and Redundancy

We often think of paper as being secure and permanent because it’s tangible, and it ages slowly. But even well-maintained pages will eventually tear and become brittle. It’s true that hard drives don’t last forever either, but unlike paper, digital files can be copied onto other, newer hard drives almost instantly. 

Redundancy is an important part of preservation; with redundant copies, if anything happens to the original copy, you’ll have a backup. Every time you create an additional paper copy of a document it costs you money to produce, takes up more space, and takes, at the very least, a few seconds per page to duplicate. Digital files are already duplicated every single time you move, edit, share, or copy them, and it happens nearly instantly per page.

Another factor to consider is the centralization of information in cloud storage. When you upload files to whatever cloud service you already use (or should be using), they’re saved to a massive database in a secure location far away. These sites store incredible amounts of information, and the companies that own them rely on their clients’ happy satisfaction to turn a profit. Any delays or interruptions to their clients’ access will damage their reputation and hurt their bottom line, so they go to great lengths to prevent that from happening.

With the power of the internet, the location of a cloud server doesn’t matter very much, aside from local information laws. That means that there are only a handful of these sites around the world, storing information for thousands of businesses and hundreds of millions of users. The point is: these companies rake in a ton of revenue. Reinvesting this revenue back into their business means enhancing their network connections and strengthening multiple layers of physical and digital security so that your files are as safe as possible from security or cybersecurity breaches, natural disasters, and other forms of loss or damage.

2 – Security and Legality

As already mentioned, for many people, the tangibility of paper makes it feel more reliable and secure. By contrast, the average person’s understanding of digital technology and cybersecurity might lead some to believe that information connected to the internet is uniquely vulnerable to hackers or malware. From this perspective, it seems like document imaging would worsen your information security. These concerns are not necessarily unfounded, as completely unprotected access to the internet can be very risky. 

However, in the current digital age, most digital tools and online systems have rigorous protections built right in. If you’re an average consumer or small to medium business, you probably use one of the mainstream suites of software tools, like Microsoft Office, Google Suite, or the various Mac OS products. All of these have built-in security measures to protect you from standard security concerns like malware and phishing attacks. If you store your digital files in encrypted cloud storage and use reputable tools, imaging your documents actually improves their security.

Metadata is the reason why protected digital documents are  Nearly every software system available does some amount of metadata tracking. This means that the program records details about its use, such as the user or IP address using it, when and for how long it was used, and what was done with it (among many other things). If someone accesses or changes a file, a comprehensive, automated metadata system will record it. This means that you’ll always know what has or has not happened to your information. 

Paper documents, of course, do not have automatic metadata. If someone who’s not supposed to can view sensitive documents, they’ll have that information, and you’ll have no way of knowing that they do. If a sensitive piece of information gets leaked (e.g. trade secrets, confidential client information), you’ll be able to use metadata to narrow down the list of people who may be responsible to just those that had access. With paper documents, you’re left guessing. With proper metadata systems in place, imaging your documents brings them into a far more secure space, where they’re always under the watchful eye of automated overseers.

1 – Organizational Flexibility

Without a doubt, the number one way in which document imaging will benefit your business is by making your organization more flexible. This may sound insignificant, but flexibility is crucial for responding to changes and crises; crises like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020. Organizations that were able to switch to an entirely or partially remote work model were able to maintain business and keep their members safer. That kind of remote work is only possible with digital information; organizations that relied on paper files either had to forgo those files for a time or drastically cut down the number of people allowed into their office. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is just one example, and an extreme one at that. The flexibility that digital information systems offer can benefit you in more ways than the option to work from home. With the ability to transmit information across continents in seconds, the physical distance between your organization and its partners becomes less of a factor, opening up new business opportunities. The storage efficiency mentioned previously gives you more options for storing mass amounts of data, and the ability to move it quickly or access it over great distances means it can be relocated or shared nearly instantly.

Whether the next crisis your organization faces is a natural disaster, a recession, or something else entirely, document imaging makes your information flexible enough to accommodate whatever adaptation is necessary. But you should not wait for the crisis to come to you before imaging. Though the outcome of document imaging is flexible digital information, the process of imaging your files must be done in person, with your files in one place. It also takes time to discuss, arrange, prepare, and execute, so the onset of a new crisis is already too late. 

In order to protect your organization and its success through whatever new crises may be coming, you should image your documents beforehand. Imaging your documents early also brings you all the benefits discussed in the earlier points, so there are no downsides. Contact us today to learn more and to see how we can help protect you from disaster.