While secure offsite records storage is often the most cost-effective records management solution, digitizing your company’s records provides several significant benefits.
Here are some compelling reasons to consider digitizing your records:
- Enhanced Accessibility & Efficiency
- Space & Cost Savings
- Improved Document Security & Disaster Recovery
- Enhanced Data Preservation
- Searchability & Indexing
- Regulatory Compliance
- Streamlined Workflow & Automation
- Cost-Effective Sharing & Distribution
- Environmental Stability
Enhanced Accessibility & Efficiency
Digitized records can be easily accessed and retrieved from anywhere at any time. This eliminates the need for manual searching through physical files and allows for quick and efficient retrieval of information. Employees can access the records remotely, promoting collaboration and productivity.
Space & Cost Savings
Storing physical records requires valuable office space and ongoing maintenance. By digitizing your records, you can significantly reduce the need for physical storage space, potentially leading to cost savings on rent or reallocation of space for other purposes.
Improved Document Security & Disaster Recovery
Digital records can be stored securely with appropriate access controls and encryption measures. This helps protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or physical damage. In the event of a disaster, such as a fire or flood, digitized records can be easily backed up and replicated off-site, ensuring business continuity and faster recovery.
Enhanced Data Preservation
Physical records are susceptible to degradation over time due to factors like moisture, light, and handling when stored in an office environment. Employing a records management center mitigates some of the risk by providing a stable storage environment, but digitizing your records can also help preserve the content and quality of the information. With proper backup and storage practices, you can ensure the long-term preservation of your valuable records.
Searchability & Indexing
Digitized records can be indexed, tagged, and searchable, making it easier to locate specific information within the documents. Optical character recognition (OCR) technology can be used to extract text from scanned documents, allowing for keyword searches and advanced document organization.
Many industries have specific regulatory requirements regarding document retention and accessibility. Digitizing your records can help ensure compliance with these regulations by providing accurate records management, retention schedules, and audit trails.
Streamlined Workflow & Automation
Digital records facilitate streamlined workflows and automation processes. Electronic documents can be integrated with other business systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, enabling seamless information flow and automation of tasks.
Cost-Effective Sharing & Distribution
Digital records can be easily shared and distributed electronically, reducing costs associated with printing, postage, and physical document transportation. This enhances collaboration with clients, partners, and remote teams.
By reducing reliance on paper-based records, digitization contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing paper consumption, deforestation, and carbon emissions associated with physical document storage and transportation.
Digitizing your records prepares your company for the digital future. As technology continues to evolve, digital records are more compatible with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, which can unlock additional value and insights from your records.
Scan or Store?
The choice between off-site records storage and digitization depends on various factors, including your specific needs, the nature of your documents, compliance requirements, budget, and accessibility requirements. Let’s consider the advantages and considerations of each option:
Off-site Records Storage Advantages:
- Physical Document Preservation: Off-site storage ensures the preservation of physical documents in a secure and controlled environment, protecting them from degradation, loss, or damage.
- Compliance: Some industries have specific regulatory requirements for physical document retention. Off-site storage can help meet these compliance requirements.
- Cost-Effective for Low-Usage Documents: If you have a large volume of documents that are rarely accessed, off-site storage may be a cost-effective solution compared to the expenses of digitization.
- Access to Original Documents: In certain situations, immediate access to the original physical document may be necessary, such as in legal or regulatory proceedings.
Off-site Records Storage Considerations:
- Limited Accessibility: Retrieving physical documents from off-site storage may take time and incur costs, particularly if frequent access is required.
- Lack of Searchability: Physical documents are not easily searchable, making it challenging to locate specific information within a large collection.
- Enhanced Accessibility and Searchability: Digitized documents can be easily accessed, searched, and retrieved, improving efficiency and productivity. They can be available remotely, enabling flexible work arrangements.
- Space and Cost Savings: Digitization eliminates the need for physical storage space, reducing costs associated with off-site storage, maintenance, and document transportation.
- Improved Security and Disaster Recovery: Digital documents can be encrypted, backed up, and replicated off-site, providing enhanced security and protection against physical damage or loss.
- Workflow Efficiency: Digital documents can be seamlessly integrated with business systems, enabling automated workflows and streamlined processes.
- Upfront Investment: Digitization requires an initial investment in scanning equipment, software, and resources for the conversion process. However, the long-term cost savings and benefits should be considered.
- Document Complexity: Certain document types, such as bound books, large-format documents, or fragile materials, may require specialized scanning techniques and equipment, adding complexity and cost to the digitization process.
- Compliance and Legal Considerations: Depending on your industry, there may be legal and compliance requirements for the retention and authenticity of digital records. Ensure that your digitization processes meet these requirements.
Ongoing Digital Asset Management: Digital documents require ongoing management, including backup, storage, metadata tagging, and data security measures.
In many cases, a hybrid approach combining off-site storage for low-usage or regulatory compliance documents, and digitization for frequently accessed or critical records, can offer a balanced solution.
Ultimately, the best approach depends on your organization’s unique requirements, resources, and long-term goals. It’s advisable to conduct a thorough assessment and consult with records management professionals to determine the most suitable strategy for your specific needs.
AdvantageDS3 can help your organization improve efficiency, accessibility, and data management through digital transformation. Eastern Iowa businesses choose Advantage as their preferred provider to digitize:
- Paper Documents, including various types of physical records, such as invoices, purchase orders, receipts, contracts, employee records, customer files, legal documents, and other administrative paperwork. Digitizing these documents involves scanning them and converting them into electronic files.
- Financial documents, such as bank statements, financial reports, tax records, and expense receipts, are often digitized to streamline accounting processes and facilitate easy access and retrieval.
- Human Resources records including resumes, applications, performance evaluations, time-off requests, benefits information, and other personnel files. Digitization allows for better organization, searchability, and secure storage of sensitive employee data.
- Medical records and patient files. Healthcare providers and facilities digitize patient records, medical charts, lab reports, and other medical documents to enhance patient care, reduce errors, and improve information sharing among healthcare professionals.
- Legal documents and contracts. Law firms and legal departments digitize legal documents, case files, court records, contracts, and other legal paperwork to streamline document management, enable efficient collaboration, and facilitate quick retrieval when needed.
- Client records and customer-related documents, including customer profiles, purchase histories, support tickets, feedback forms, and correspondence, to enhance customer relationship management (CRM) and deliver personalized experiences.
- Contracts and agreements and other legal documents. When digitized, it simplifies document storage, version control, and retrieval. It also allows for electronic signatures and facilitates remote collaboration.
- Research and development (R&D) records. Organizations engaged in research and development often digitize laboratory notebooks, experimental data, research findings, intellectual property documentation, and patent records for better knowledge management and collaboration.
- Compliance and regulatory documents. Many businesses digitize compliance-related documents, such as policies, procedures, safety records, certifications, and audit reports, to ensure regulatory compliance, easy retrieval during inspections, and streamlined internal processes.
By digitizing these documents and records, businesses in Eastern Iowa can reduce physical storage costs, improve accessibility, enhance collaboration, implement advanced search functionalities, and ensure disaster recovery and data security measures.
What to Look For?
When selecting a document scanning company, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure they meet your requirements and provide high-quality services. Here are some key aspects to look for when evaluating a document scanning company:
- Flexibility, Scalability, and Capacity: Consider the company’s ability to handle your document volume and meet your scanning requirements. Assess their scanning capacity, turnaround times, and whether they have the necessary equipment and resources to handle large-scale projects. Also evaluate the company’s ability and willingness to adapt their offerings to your unique requirements or desired outcome. Trusted digitization vendors like AdvantageDS3 shy away from blanket “out-of-the-box” approaches to digital conversions, and recognize each organization’s needs are somewhat different, even within the same industry, government agency and application area. Select a digitization provider that is willing to customize their project plan and tailor it to your requirements.
- Compliance and Legal Considerations: Depending on your industry, you may have specific compliance requirements for document retention, privacy, and legal admissibility. Ensure the scanning company adheres to relevant regulations and can provide necessary documentation, such as certification of compliance or audit trails.
- Security Measures: Since your documents may contain sensitive or confidential information, it’s crucial to ensure the scanning company has robust security measures in place. Inquire about their data security protocols, including access controls and encryption methods. Evaluate the records center’s policies and procedures to protect the privacy of your information, including employee confidentiality agreements and compliance with relevant data protection regulations. Advantage Document Scanning and Storage Solutions has maintained comprehensive documentation of our policies, procedures, and practices, and would be happy to share them with you to help you establish your own evaluation criteria.
- Document Preparation Services: Document preparation is a critical step before scanning. Ask about the company’s document preparation services, such as removal of staples, paperclips, or bindings, as well as document sorting and organization. Proper preparation ensures optimal scanning results.
- Quality and Accuracy: Document scanning should result in high-quality, accurate digital images. Inquire about their quality control processes, including image resolution, file formats, and accuracy verification methods. Ask for samples or demonstrations to assess the quality of their work.
- OCR Capabilities: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology converts scanned images into searchable and editable text. If you require OCR services, verify that the scanning company has the capability to perform OCR and inquire about the accuracy and effectiveness of their OCR processes. This is especially important when the documents or materials to be scanned are unstructured, or of particularly poor quality. Look for a vendor that has experience with the challenges inherent with materials like historical newspapers or historical government records. These companies have overcome obstacles with the most challenging image-to-text processes, and they will likely offer a higher rate of accuracy on your records vs. a vendor only accustomed to OCRing clean contemporary documents.
- Indexing, Metadata, and Output Formats: Indexing and metadata play a crucial role in organizing and retrieving digital documents. Inquire about the company’s indexing capabilities and whether they offer manual or automated indexing services. Discuss the metadata requirements and ensure they can capture and incorporate relevant information into the digital files. Discuss the document scanning company’s ability to provide output in the desired file formats, such as PDF, TIFF, or searchable PDF. Additionally, if you plan to integrate the digitized documents with your existing systems or document management software, confirm compatibility and discuss any integration capabilities they offer.
- Pricing and Contract Terms: Request a detailed pricing structure, including any additional fees for document preparation, indexing, or special requirements. Understand the contract terms, including service level agreements, turnaround times, and provisions for handling potential issues or errors. Consider the level of customer support and service the company provides. Ensure they are responsive, available for assistance, and have a reliable support system in place to address any concerns or issues that may arise during the scanning process.
- Experience and Expertise: Look for a company with a proven track record and experience in document scanning and imaging. Consider their years of operation, their specialization (if any), and whether they have worked with organizations similar to yours. Ask the scanning company for references or testimonials from their existing clients. Reach out to these references to gain insights into their experience, level of satisfaction, and the overall quality of the scanning company’s services. For instance, If you are in the healthcare industry, references from the University of Iowa Health Care or UnityPoint might be of particular interest. Educational institutions should seek references from a K-12 school, or a college like Cornel College in Mt. Vernon or Coe College in Cedar Rapids, or maybe the local library or museums in your community. If you are in local, county, or state government, you may be more interested in speaking with agencies like the Iowa Department of Transportation, The State Historical Society Of Iowa, or the recorder’s offices of county’s like Linn, Des Moines, or Keokuk. A good offsite storage company should be able to provide you with a long list of recognizable names that utilize their secure vault storage services.
By carefully evaluating these factors and conducting thorough research, you can select a document scanning company that meets your specific requirements and ensures a successful and efficient digitization process for your documents.