No matter what type of small business you run, you have files. If you're like many other small businesses in the U.S., at least some of these files are probably stored in filing cabinets in your office. This is a system that has remained in place for many decades, but it's no longer the best method. Technology has made way for a more efficient method of conducting business, one that involves digital rather than physical files.
How can you convert your physical files to digital? The easiest and most effective way is having your files professionally scanned. These scans turn the papers that are cluttering up your office into digital files you can save, duplicate, share and secure with ease. Scanning in your documents helps you save time, frees up space in your office, protects you against risks, allows for remote access, eases the transition to digital, helps the environment and can save you money.
Let's take a closer look at how document scanning can benefit a small business.
One of the critical advantages of document scanning for small companies is that it saves your business valuable time. Consider the current process you have in place for accessing physical files. You have to locate the right filing cabinet and then find a single piece of paper or folder among hundreds of others. What if the document is misfiled? There is no telling how long it could take to find it. Even if your filing cabinets are well-organized, this will undoubtedly take some time. Filing away new files also takes time as you must locate the appropriate place to put the new file.
When filing cabinets become full, you may need to add a new cabinet and completely reorganize your files to maintain whatever system of organization you were using. For example, let's say, one filing cabinet holds files alphabetized under A-F and a second filing cabinet holds files G-L. Once these filing cabinets are full and you need to add some additional files, the first cabinet may only be able to hold files A-D, and the second will now hold files E-H, and the domino effect continues, affecting many or all of your filing cabinets.
When your documents are stored digitally, these scenarios don't happen. You can perfectly maintain whatever organizational system works best for you without having to move files around. When you need a certain file, you can either go to the digital folder where you know it's stored or simply search for it. When you have your documents professionally scanned in, they shouldn't be stored as images. Rather, the system should recognize text on the page so you can search for documents by simply typing in words you know are in the document.
Scanning eliminates the need to file and search for documents physically, freeing your employees to spend their time adding value to your business rather than performing a mundane task.
Frees Up Space
How much of your office is currently being taken up by filing cabinets? Now imagine those filing cabinets gone and the space they occupied completely free. You probably don't have to think long to come up with a better use for that space. You could add more desk space, a coffee bar or just enjoy a more spacious atmosphere that doesn't feel cramped.
If you have your documents scanned in but want to keep the originals as well, you can move them to a secure off-site location or a storage space on-site. Even if you hold onto your hard copy files, you still enjoy the advantage of not needing to have them easily accessible as you otherwise would. Therefore, you free up valuable office space and create a less cluttered environment.
We'll talk more about how having your documents scanned can save you money later, but for right now, consider the fact that the average cost of rent per square foot for office space in New York City is about $83. The space your filing cabinets occupy is likely costing you hundreds of dollars every month. No matter where your office is located, your filing cabinets are taking up valuable real estate, so you don't want to waste it.
If you're moving to a new office building, why not leave the bulky filing cabinets behind? You won't have to find an office that accommodates your filing cabinets, and you can start fresh with a more modern and serene environment.
Having your documents scanned can also protect you in a few unfortunate situations. One is a tax audit. If you've conducted business legally and honestly, then a tax audit is nothing to fear. However, it can be a headache when it happens, especially if your files aren't well-organized or easy to find. When the auditor asks for a certain document, rather than handing them a box or folder of loose papers, both you and the auditor will have an easier time if you can instantly provide them with a digital file.
Paper files are not as secure as digital files, which is another important consideration if you want to minimize risk. Storing your files on highly secure servers rather than in a physical location protects them from tampering and theft. While a physical lock that can be tampered with or opened with a key, a digital file can be encrypted and password-protected.
Another risk to consider is the possibility that your paper files could be destroyed by the elements. If your office were to experience a flood or fire and your files were destroyed, imagine how devastating this would be to your company if those hard copies were the only ones you had. Even if you are fortunate enough to avoid a disaster like a fire or flood, everyday accidents like coffee spills can also damage paper documents. Whatever the risk, big or small, it's wise to be prepared for those situations, and you can be by scanning in your paper files.
Allows Remote Access
The world of business has changed in some crucial ways in recent years. Advancements in technology allow people to be connected in ways they couldn't be before. Employees can use email and phone to communicate and work collaboratively through cloud-based services. Today, approximately 43 percent of American employees work remotely at least some of the time.
There are some important benefits to having remote employees, including higher productivity and the possibility to hire the best of the best from a wider pool of talent. To take advantage of these benefits, you need to be equipped for allowing employees to work remotely. Just having collaborative tools and means of communication at your disposal isn't enough.
When employees need to access files to consult information or complete a task, they need to have a means of locating that file digitally. If the file they need is in a filing cabinet hundreds of miles away, then they have a real problem. They'll need to send an email or make a phone call and have another employee in the main office fax the document to them or scan it in and send it.
If you currently have, or are interested in hiring, remote workers, then having your files scanned in is really a must. This way, employees can access the files they need from any location.
Makes the Transition to Digital Smoother
With the world increasingly going digital, some businesses are struggling with the change. If you've had the privilege of conducting business for several years or more, you may have an analog system in place already that you hesitate to change. If your company hasn't made the leap to conducting business digitally yet, the good news is that having your documents scanned in can make the transition to digital an easy one.
Let's say you currently have a folder for each client you work with, including records of their past purchases. If you implement a computerized system for creating new records, this is a great step forward, but it doesn't account for all the files you've already accumulated. To maintain a complete client history that is all stored together, you need to convert your physical files into digital ones.
Another example is a medical office that maintains records on each patient's personal information, past visits, test results and more. By digitizing these records and moving to an electronic system, you can simplify the process of maintaining these records.
When you scan in your old documents, they become digital files that can now be stored alongside your new digital files. The transition to digital can seem daunting, but it is far less so when you bridge the gap between analog and digital by converting your paper documents into digital files. Again, these files aren't just pictures of documents — they are searchable through text recognition, just like the files you create on your computer.
Helps the Environment
When you take advantage of document scanning to help you move to a more paperless way of conducting business, you lessen your impact on the environment. Currently, the average American office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year. Paper makes up a large portion of what fills our landfills and is what continues to motivate deforestation.
This is a matter of personal importance to many people as well as good for business. When customers and clients know your business is committed to going green in however it can, this speaks well to your company's social awareness and ethical conscience. Demonstrating a commitment to environmentalism is a great way to enhance your brand image.
Going paperless also makes a positive impression on potential employees. A recent survey found that 76 percent of Millennials take a company's social and environmental commitments into account when choosing where they are going to work. As a group, millennials are especially concerned about the environment compared to other age groups. However, they are by no means the only ones. The percentage of Americans in general who consider companies' commitment to the environment is still well over half.
Removing paper entirely may be unrealistic for your business, but by conducting business digitally wherever you can, you can still reduce your environmental impact substantially.
Last, but not least, if you've been wondering, "Can document scanning save a small business money?" the answer is yes. One of the ways it does this is by saving you the cost of paper and ink. Of course, you can't recoup the costs of paper and ink you already spent on paper documents, but if you choose to scan documents as part of a move toward going digital, you can support a sustainable model that requires far less copy paper and printing ink. By significantly reducing your need for paper and ink, your company can enjoy huge financial savings.
Some of the ways this can save you money have to do with other benefits we've already mentioned. For instance, consider the benefit of saved time. To put it simply, time is money in business. The time an employee spends searching for a document is time you are paying them to do so. Whenever you eliminate steps that take up an employee's time, you promote better efficiency. The time an employee would have been spending on a mundane task they can now spend on a more value-add task.
Some of the reasons small businesses benefit from document scanning may seem less related to finances, such as helping the environment. However, even when it may be difficult to quantify, any benefits that improve your business should lead to financial gain. By making your employees and customers happy, you can expect your business to grow and thrive.
Get a Free Quote From ScansAmerica
Now that we talked about many of the benefits of document scanning for small businesses, you may be wondering what your next step should be. If you're interested in having your documents scanned, don't hesitate to move forward. Some businesses may be tempted to try to take care of document scanning in-house. This method takes up a great deal of time and effort and won't deliver the results that you would get if you went with a professional service.
For digital conversion you can trust, look to ScansAmerica. When you hire ScansAmerica, your hard work ends when you've made the important decision to have your files scanned. We come in and take care of collecting all your files and deliver them back to you digitized and in a searchable database, for the ultimate hassle-free experience.
No matter how many files you have or how overwhelming the task may seem, we can take care of it. We take a custom approach to each and every job and ensure a high level of quality in all the work we do. Don't let that row of filing cabinets in your office fool you. The move to digital documents is well within your reach. Contact ScansAmerica today for a free quote.