Have you ever wondered where digital documents go once scanned or how digital storage works? Then you’re in the right place. In this brief explainer, we’ll explore how digital documents work, the options for digital storage, and how to get the most out of your digital documents. 

How Do Scanned Documents Work?

Here’s a brief explanation of our scanning process which explains how digital documents are created, stored, and moved. Curious about the benefits of digital? Click here to learn why you should scan your documents.

Step 1) Scanning Documents

When we scan one of your documents, the scanning equipment creates a digital image which is an accurate copy of the page. To create the image, the scanning equipment arranges magnetic charges on a storage device, which computers can read as code. You can think of a digital file as a packet of instructions your computer uses to recreate the content. So a digital image file, like the one created by the scanner, is a packet of instructions for recreating the image of your document on your monitor.

Step 2) Local Storage

As the machine scans your document, the digital file is created on a hard drive on one of our computers. It will remain there while we do quality assurance (QA) and apply Optical Character Recognition software (OCR). Whenever it needs to be moved from one drive or computer to another, the computers read the data in the first location and rewrite it onto the new storage device.

  • Step 2.1) Quality Assurance: Our dedicated quality assurance personnel then compare the digital image to the original physical page to ensure the copy is accurate. 
  • Step 2.2) Optical Character Recognition: If requested, we then apply Optical Character Recognition software (OCR) to identify and encode any text on the page. Without OCR, the text in your digital document is just another part of the picture that the computer can’t tell apart from the blank space around it. By encoding the text, OCR makes each letter recognizable to the computer so that you can search, highlight, or copy it, just like a digital document.

Step 3) Returning Scanned Documents to You

After we’ve completed QA and OCR, we transfer the files back to you in one of the following ways:

  • Removable Storage: we can move the digital files onto one or a number of portable storage device(s) and give it to you. You can then connect it to your own computer to move the files over.
  • Cloud Storage: If your organization already uses a cloud storage service (e.g. GoogleDrive, Dropbox, Mega, OneDrive) or has its own cloud storage system, we can simply upload the scanned documents to a folder in your drive. If you don’t already use a cloud storage service, we can help you set one up and upload the files there, or we can build a customized cloud storage platform for you to access at your leisure. 

Though we offer all three of these options, we recommend cloud storage for a number of reasons. Here are the top three:

  • Allows you to access your files from anywhere, whether you’re at home, in the office, or travelling for business.
  • Allows you to access your files as soon as we scan them, rather than having to wait until we’ve finished scanning all of them
  • Excellent security and reliability enabled by advanced centralized servers.

Click here to learn more about cloud storage, including how it works and why it’s beneficial.

What are My Options for Storing Scanned Documents?

Storage Location

In general, you have two options: local storage or cloud storage. We strongly recommend cloud storage for a number of reasons; click here to learn more

  • Local Storage: Keeping your files on your own computer(s).
  • Cloud storage: Keeping your files on a secure, centralized storage server you can access through the internet.
    • Subscription Service: you can upload your files to a storage provider’s secure servers for a nominal monthly or annual fee.
    • Custom Cloud Storage: we can help you set up a custom cloud storage platform tailored to your organization’s specific needs.

Storage Hardware

It’s also important to understand the hardware involved in digital storage. There are two types of storage devices: Hard Disc Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SSDs). A hard disc drive uses magnetic charges on small spinning discs to read and write data, whereas a solid state drive has no moving parts and reads and writes data using magnetic charges alone. 

The important differences between HDDs and SSDs are cost and speed. HDDs are cheaper but less efficient, taking longer to move or copy files. SSDs are much faster than HDDs but are also far more expensive for the same capacity.

Regarding local storage, HDDs are a cost-effective way to store files you don’t need to access or move very often, whereas files you move or access frequently are best stored on faster, lower-capacity SSDs.

Some cloud storage providers let you choose whether to keep your cloud files on HDDs or SSDs, charging a higher rate for SSDs. Your provider may even offer hybrid storage, in which some folders are stored on SSDs and others on HDDs. 

Best Practices for Organizing Scanned Documents

Here are some simple best practices to remember when organizing your digital files that will help you leverage the most value out of the advantages of digital formats.

1) Maximize your Metadata

Metadata is information about your information (data about your data; e.g. date and time created, size, author, etc.). Ensure your system is set up to create metadata about each file created within it or added to it from other sources. Most kinds of metadata will already be automated, such as the date and time it was created or modified, but other kinds will need to be programmed into the system, especially any information specifically important to your industry or operation. Your system should have a metadata variable for every piece of information about your file that would be important to know. Though there are better and worse variables to include in a metadata system, more is generally better.

2) Optimize your Metadata

Automatic metadata is one of the biggest advantages of digital formats, but it isn’t valuable unless it’s accurate. The value of metadata is that it makes your documents easier to navigate, organize, and access, so having no metadata for your documents means you’re not getting the full value of digital technology. However, having inaccurate or outdated metadata is the opposite of that value. Make sure your files’ metadata is accurate when they’re created and that it remains accurate over time with regular updates.

3) Organize Efficiently

Whether you’re using digital or physical files, this is always a good rule. Make sure that the layers your files are sorted into make intuitive sense, such that broader categories contain smaller categories; important characteristics take precedence over less important ones. If you’re organizing a newly created collection of digital copies of physical documents, retaining the way in which the originals were organized is often a good idea.

Get the Most Out of Your Information

Have a scanning project in mind? Consentia has been a top scanning and digitization provider in Alberta for decades, and we’d love to help drive your digital transformation. Contact our scanning experts today if you have any questions, or click here to request a quote or consultation.