The prospect of scanning years of paperwork in a file room that’s bursting at the seams can be daunting for any organization. Even a couple of our clients mention this challenge in their reviews of Scan123 on DrivingSales.com:

“It has taken a while to get all the files scanned, we are still working on it.”

“At first it was time consuming scanning all our deals …”

In recognition of this, we need to ask whether it’s worth it to try to scan your whole file archive or just scan new documents as they are created or arrive. But if you’re looking for a simple “Yes” or “No” answer, you’re out of luck. Every organization and person will have to decide that for themselves and their unique situation. Here are a few things to consider as you grapple with this question.

 

Where, when, and why

After investing in scanners and an electronic document management system (EDMS), any organization naturally wants to see some return for their money. Scanning your archived paper files is the fastest way to realize the benefits of using an EDMS. As you scan more and more files, you’ll recover more space and save more time retrieving documents. If you choose to draw a line in the sand and only scan going forward, it will take longer to see results. This is why most organizations choose to do some amount of backscanning.

Some will bite the bullet and choose to scan everything as quickly as possible. The fastest way to get the job done is to contract out your backscanning to a local company. Others will temporarily reassign personnel to full-time scanning or have a receptionist or cashier scan documents in between other tasks, (like Desert Sun.)

Desert Sun Roswell NM. Had this to say:

“We had bought a boxcar to store our documents in and we were getting ready to buy another. (After getting Scan123,) We put our receptionist to work ‘back scanning’ when she had the time during the day. She got us caught up in one month!”

Of course, your options are not limited to scanning all of your paper or none of it. For instance, at Gresham Toyota, where we designed and field-tested Scan123, the dealership decided to scan all new incoming documents but only scan older files upon retrieving them for everyday business use.

Another strategy would be to scan only the files that are costing you the most to store and retrieve. If you can clear out an off-site storage unit, you’ve saved yourself the monthly fee and the time and gas to drive there. File rooms can be converted into workspace, as this Scan123 client did. Maybe you’ll even be able to move to a smaller, cheaper office space. Or maybe the files that cost you the most to retrieve just need to be retrieved all the time.

This question is important whether the old documents in question are a storage unit filled to the ceiling with boxes of documents, a file room at a business, or a pile of papers on a desk in a home office.

Most organizations will choose to do some amount of backscanning. The more files that are scanned into an electronic document management system, the faster you will realize the benefits of working in a paperless office.

One of the primary benefits of backscanning is recovering space that your paper documents are currently taking up. If you can clear out an off-site storage unit, you’ve saved yourself the monthly fee and the time and gas to drive there. File rooms can be converted into workspace, as this Scan123 client did. Maybe you’ll even be able to move to a smaller, cheaper office space.

 

So why would you not choose to backscan?

If space is not at a premium in your office and you don’t want to spend the time or money to scan a bunch of old documents, you may find it more cost-effective to let your paper documents “expire” without scanning them. As your files become obsolete or are no longer necessary, you can shred or destroy them, phasing out your current records this way.

 

Middle-of-the-road alternatives

As mentioned before, your options are not limited to scanning all of your paper or none of it. Some other strategies to consider include:

  • Scan just a group or type of files that are accessed often
  • Scan all files created in the last six months
  • Scan only files that are retrieved
  • Let your oldest paper documents “expire” without scanning them.

 

Where to start?

If you decide to back scan your old documents, which files should you scan first? Should you start with the newest? The oldest?

I recommend scanning the files that you spend the most time accessing each month. This could be a group of files that you access often. Ask yourself “Do I need to get up from my desk to get this document?” Scan those files ASAP. Consider also the importance of speed in retrieving a particular document.

I hope this article helps as you ponder all of the options. If you’ve read this far I know you are serious about going paperless once and for all. If you need to talk to a scanning specialist about your unique situation contact us here.