Why keep a filing cabinet full of paperwork when you can scan everything and store it online? Follow these steps to make it happen.
The first step in creating a paperless office is to digitise the documents you already have. To pull this off effectively, you’re going to need a decent scanner. This not only saves on clutter, but you can also keep multiple backups to ensure you never lose an important receipt come tax time. (Thermal paper has a tendency to fade alarmingly quickly.)
As we have noted in the past , the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) considers electronic records to be just as valid as paper ones. This includes digital documents that you originally received in paper form, such as scanned receipts.
Choose The Right Scanner
Standalone scanners might not be as prolific as they once were, but there are still plenty of viable options on the market. Some will suit your needs better than others so it pays to do as much research as possible prior to purchase.
You’re going to want a model that can handle all the paper sizes you regularly deal with in the office – from business cards to full-sized sheets of paper. Keep this in mind when making your decision and only buy what you need. For example, if you rarely handle A3 documents, there’s probably no need to splurge out on a plus-size model; this will just be wasting space in the office.
Speed and reliability are also important factors. Look for versatile document feeders that can house multi-sided documents in the loading tray — this will save you the hassle of having to feed each page one after the other.
If you frequently work abroad, you might also want to consider a portable scanner. There are numerous models on the market that are compact enough to fit inside a small bag with power supplied via USB.
You might also want to consider an all-in-one printer which includes a printer, fax machine and scanner in a single device. They are relatively affordable and space-efficient compared to buying three dedicated devices. On the downside, more people will be lining up to use it at once.
Choose The Right Software
You need to purchase a scanner with great software support and an intuitive user interface to help keep all your files organised. Some models can convert text documents into searchable PDFs. You can also find companion apps that provide additional control via your phone.
If you get a chance, try to play around with a few different models and see how well the inbuilt software functions. Unless you work in design, a fast and user-friendly UI is arguably more important than perfectly scanned images.
Choose Where To Store
Scanning your documents is only the first step of the process: you also need somewhere to store them. Many scanners provide the ability to automatically sync to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive.
Others let you scan directly to your iPhone, Android device or laptop via inbuilt Wi-Fi. If you prefer an old school approach, you can also rely on the scanner’s inbuilt USB thumb drive. Another option worth considering is a shared office NAS, where all scanned documents are automatically sent.
Can your smartphone be a scanner?
Your smartphone’s camera coupled with an organisational app could be the scanning solution you're looking for. The chief advantage is that it's free (other than the app you're using), and only requires the equipment you already own.
On the other hand, it is likely to be slower and less reliable. Scanning large, multi-page documents will undoubtedly be an agonising process with a smartphone’s camera. With that said, there are a handful of apps out there than can make the process more tolerable. Just be aware that you generally get what you pay for.
Schedule Scanning Sessions Regularly
Whichever option you go for, be sure to schedule scanning sessions and backups regularly. To help you get into the habit, add it to your calendar.
Once you've scanned your documents and made multiple backups, it's time to remove all that dead weight from the office. If you are working with sensitive material be sure to shred it first. You should also make a point of recycling it.