Scanning for Dummies: How to Get Started

Posted by Tony Carlucci on Dec 19, 2013 9:24:00 AM

If you are new to high-volume scanning – which means turning a lot of physical documents into digital ones – where do you start? As soon as you ask questions, the technologists are going to start heaving those buzzwords at you. How do you make sense of it all? I suggest you start with these six simple questions.

What Do You Mean: High Volume? Do you have three boxes of file folders that you want to get off your shelves and onto a hard drive? Or are you looking at converting thousands or millions of records? If the requirement is small, look for a small local vendor who can get the job done in a couple of days. But don’t expect the per-box price they quote to apply to much bigger requirements. A high-volume processor has invested in high-speed scanners, quality-control and process-management systems, and its own digital repository to handle the load. Those are your safeguards of success, and you won’t want to be without them.

Looking Back or Looking Forward? Two buzzwords you may run into right away are “backfile” and “file-forward.” The backfile is your archive: the relatively static files that belong to the past. File-forward projects mean taking today’s and tomorrow’s paperwork and turning it into digital documents, typically to integrate them into a computerized management system. Vendors will price them differently, so you need to be clear.

Offsite or Onsite? In most cases, you will send documents to a Capture Center operated by the vendor and get them back at the end. But many organizations want stricter control over their documents and prefer to have the work done at their own facilities. A qualified vendor should be able to handle either requirement and provide you with trained personnel, equipment and onsite supervisors as required. You can even combine offsite and onsite options in a single project.

What Condition Are the Documents In? The typical requirement is a file folder containing documents that may be loose, paper-clipped and stapled. It takes a pair of hands to turn them into a stack of loose sheets that can pass through a high-speed scanner, and vendors will build that into their pricing. But if your documents fall outside the norm – because they are fragile, are bound into books or otherwise require special handling – be sure to let your vendor know so that there are no surprises after work gets started.

How Do You Want the Digital Documents Indexed? Once your physical documents become virtual, you will need an index to find them. The index keeps track of the important information in those documents: everything from tax ID or customer numbers to dates. The vendor’s pricing will depend on how in-depth you want that indexing to be: by the box, the folder or individual document.

How Important is Quality? Once you go digital, you won’t ever want to go back. That means the quality of the digital images is vital. They have to capture the full document and have enough brightness and contrast to be readable. Sounds simple – but when a company is processing thousands or millions of documents on different colors and qualities of paper, it is easy for things to go wrong. Your vendor should provide one-to-one quality inspection of every document, not just a statistical sample. Because when you need a particular – and unreadable – document a year from now, the statistical sample is no substitute.

Ready for more information? Click here to download a free copy of our Backfile Scanning Guide.