Time to Scan

If you have been waiting for the right time to convert paper files to digital data, now is the time.

I say this after seeing the speed of the flatbed scanner I bought last month. It was not expensive, costing slightly over $100, hardly anything compared to the value of the space a filing cabinet takes up.

Yet it is fast. It scans a letter-sized business document in about five seconds. It literally takes the scanner less time to scan a page than it does for you to type a name for the resulting file. Realistically, you can scan and name three to four pages per minute. Or to put it another way, in the time it takes to look at all your files and know what you have, something you should do every couple of years anyway, you could scan them all.

The main reason to go from paper to digital is to save space and reduce the bulk of your physical setup. Taking a file cabinet out of an office can give you more room to work. When it is time to move, it is easy to move two or three DVDs containing scans, but it can take hours to pack and move the contents of a file cabinet. And there are other advantages. Security is the most important. In a disaster, paper files are easily lost. Digital files, though, can be copied, with a copy stored somewhere else, making it unlikely that a single disaster could wipe out your files. Scanning can also save time, particularly with incoming documents. With a fast scanner, it takes less time to scan a pile of receipts and letters than it does to sort them out and file them in paper form.

I scanned my old files on a much slower scanner five years ago. I have been scanning incoming receipts, bills, and letters ever since. With my new, faster scanner, I will scan whatever remaining papers I can find, along with booklets and photos.

If you’re about to start scanning, I offer these suggestions:

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