‘To Back Scan Archives or Not to Back Scan?’ That is the Question.
It’s a dilemma managing paper archives in today’s digital environment. Accessing information at the click of a button is second nature to most of us. However, many organisations still rely heavily on paper records, and have significant physical archives stored either on or off site. These archives can include microfiche and microfilm too.
In an ideal world, many businesses would consider this information more beneficial in a digital format, but wholesale conversion is not always practical. That is why at Box-it Central, we always advise businesses to fully assess what they want to achieve from a potential back scanning project. Evaluating the reasons will help you (and your document management partner if you choose to outsource) align the most appropriate service, without unnecessary expenditure.
Considerations for Back Scanning Archives
- Is it for better accessibility of historic records?
- If so, then who needs to have access to these documents?
- How frequently will they need to access them?
- Where will they need to access them from? (This is particularly relevant for remote workers and multiple or global locations.)
- Is digitization to act as a back-up in the event of paper originals getting damaged?
- Have cost comparisons been made between current methods and possibly not doing it all? After all, it may not be necessary!
Then there is the question of how documents are digitized and how they are going to be uploaded, accessed and managed in the future:
- Are these digital documents to be uploaded/integrated into an existing EDRM system?
- Or is a web (cloud) based solution more practical with secure remote access?
- How will documents be produced going forward? Will they be digital, paper or both?
- Are documents to be scanned to CD/DVD or available online?
The Importance of Indexing
Access and management of digital files can only be efficient if indexed correctly. Indexing criteria (unique identifiers) to define each document for search and retrieval needs to be established at the start of the project. This could be one field, or multiple fields depending on the type of record. For example, by name, account number, invoice number, etc. Indexing not only supports retrieval, but can help track electronic documents.
Insourcing versus Outsourcing
Once you have decided on electronic conversion (albeit part or all of your archive), there then is the decision on whether to outsource your scanning requirements to a service provider, or to do this in-house either using your own employees or agency staff.
If using agency staff, you will need to have the necessary scanning equipment and ensure they have security (CRB/DBS) clearance, as well as space to carry out the task. This will very often require supervision at management level, and indexing needs to be accurate. You should run pilots and quality checks, and decide how long thereafter to retain the paper originals.
If outsourcing, costs will depend on the type of service you choose. As such, there may also be physical archive storage costs to factor in too. A document management company, or scanning bureau, will have specialist equipment and a secure environment in which to do this. Professional companies will collect the files from your premises in their own tracked vehicles. The document management company should give best advice, but in order to do so, your vision for digitisation needs to be clear.
Scanning to suit Your Business Needs
There are many different scanning solutions available from document management businesses, such as archive scanning, bulk scanning and scan-on-demand. Finding the ‘perfect fit’ for your business is important when outsourcing this type of service, to get best value for money and return on investment. All too often, it is just not practical to consider doing this in-house.
Of course, there is a compelling case for 100% digitization of all documents within most organisations. That may mean scanning everything in your archive. The benefits are that physical archive storage space can be saved; accessibility and productivity improved; and compliance is made easier. It also supports many corporate environmental policies for reducing paper.
The trouble is back scanning archives (or any high volume scanning project) can be a mammoth task if done in-house, and has the potential to take people away from their main duties. Separating paperwork, removing paper clips and staples are just a couple of the time-consuming tasks that have to take place before scanning can commence. There is the option to bring in agency staff, providing your own scanning machines are up to the job in terms of scanning quality and speed. Bear in mind that specialist scanning hardware is needed for microfiche, microfilm and large format documents. Then, moving forwards all documents will need to be digitized so do staff have access to desktop scanners? How is incoming mail managed and channelled through to relevant departments? These are questions that need to be considered.
Many companies reach a compromise and use Day Forward Scanning Services (where all documents are digitized from a specified date and hard copies pre ‘that date’ are retained as paper archives). New paper documents are usually redirected to your document management partner and scanned at the frequency you require, ready for you access electronically.
There is also Scan on Demand which can be used in conjunction with physical archive storage. Again paper archives are held in storage and in the event of a document being needed, there is either the option of physical retrieval or the document can be scanned by the service provider and made available via a secure link which you download from your browser, or your other chosen method.
Summary of Scanning Services
Bulk Scanning – ideal for large volume scanning projects
Box-it UK’s central scanning facility has Government accredited security and using dynamic scanning/data capture technology can process one million documents a day. Documentation can be collected using Box-it’s secure, fully tracked vehicles.
Archive scanning – perfect when you don’t have the resources in-house
At Box-it Central, we have our own secure scanning facility near Leamington Spa ideal for scanning and indexing smaller archives. Day forward scanning services can also be provided for current /incoming paper documents.
Scan on Demand – only scan when you need to
For paper archives held in storage that are unlikely to be accessed regularly (or if indeed at all) then scan on demand services are ideal. We store your physical archives in our secure-storage facilities. Barcoding allows full traceability and efficient retrieval. Should you need to access a document, then we scan and upload the link to our secure server ready for you to download from your browser.
For further information on all our scanning services, please contact Box-it Central.