Is Digitising Paper Documents Worthwhile?

Is Digitising Paper Documents Worthwhile?

Although there are a lot of benefits to retaining documents digitally rather than paper, there’s the question of legacy documents. At home, this can usually be easily managed but for larger enterprises, the costs of digitising paper documents may not make financial sense.

An article at Image and Data Manager has crunched the numbers, comparing retaining paper documents versus scanning them.

Allocating a cost of scanning at $0.08 per page at a client site, they determined the cost of scanning 440 archive boxes of documents, each holding 2500 sheets of paper, to be $88,000.

Storing all those boxes came in at $4500 per year.

In other words, it would take just over 19.5 years for the cost of storage to hit the cost of scanning.

Of course, scanned documents can be potentially subjected to OCR and indexing, making it easier to find specific documents so the benefits case for scanning isn’t simply based on the costs. And not all documents need to be retained for the same period so some of those storage costs can be reduced further.

But I was surprised at the disparity in costs.

Has your business gone through the process of digitising paper records and measured the costs? What did you find?

Is digitising your physical records worth the financial investment? [IDM]


  • Digitising already archived documents? Perhaps not, but that depends on the cost associated with retrieving said archived documents. From the electronic copy; trivial. From the boxes?

    I moved to paperless at home last year and began by going through my ‘to be filed’ drawer and scanning everything there (I have scanner in the featured image paired with Evernote Premium – it’s amazing and totally worth the extra cost). I’ve been slowly going through my most recent archived documents and scanning them in bulk (not individual scans, just piles of related documents). As any new piece of potentially valuable paper comes into the house it is scanned and sent to the ‘destroy in 6 months’ box.

    So far I’ve rarely needed to go find an *old* archived document, somewhat regularly needed a recent archived document, and frequently search for recent documents. I prioritised digitising over sorting because I can spend more time occasionally searching for a single document than making them all easily accessible. With Evernote Premium’s OCR search, it’s been simple without even properly naming/organising the files.

  • Our total scanning costs came in at considerably under 1c per page, including labour and storage, so in the above example, it would have cost us under $10,000 instead of $88,000, and the documents are now searchable and instantly retrievable.
    The cost of paper storage doesn’t take into account the cost of retrieving a document, which is sizeable, especially when the document is offsite.

  • The storage cost only comes into it when the boxes are stored on site in a high value site e.g. in a high rent office in the city.
    Mostly the time and ease of retrieval makes up for the cost of scanning.
    Look at Commonwealth Bank. They stored Loan details at the local bank where the application was filed.
    when someone wanted a new loan at another branch, the branch had to request all loan details from those branches, that added days onto loan approval times.
    After they went through and scanned the documents from each branch into an EDRMS.
    it reduced the loan approval time significantly, and made customers happy.

    Plus try to physically analyse data from 1.1 million pages in a reasonable time.
    e,g, NAPLAN would take an enormous amount of labor and have lots of errors if it wasn’t scanned. Although digital testing will soon make it faster and can be tailored an individual child.

  • Oh key…….. The article misses HUGE levels of detail in the decision process to archive hard copy versus electronic. It also has a fatal flaw in that supposedly, anything over 30 years retention gets attains an acceptable ROI but this doesn’t take into account technology redundancy and legal admissibility.

    Mark Salmon (the author) is from an infrastructure and not a records management background. (Sorry, pet rant)

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