As people have become more reliant on technology over the last decade, companies have taken advantage of more effective means of record keeping. This process includes two main channels. The first is using software that stores, organizes, and calculates current information. The second is converting existing paper documents into electronic formats.
Even though the electronic conversion has many obvious benefits, there are still numerous companies that still rely on paper files and records. With the various downsides to the paper method, it appears that cost is the major reason companies choose to stick to traditional filing. Is it really more cost-effective to avoid electronic conversion? There are many factors to consider.
Space and time
Consider the issues of physical space and man-hours. Clearly, using paper documents requires more and more space to hold the files. Building space, especially storage space, costs money. If paper is physically stored offsite, retrieving the information is not nearly as convenient as pulling up an electronic file. The amount of man-hours spent searching for paper files, retrieving them, and replacing them adds up. Filling a five-drawer filing cabinet with paper documents costs an estimated $20,000. On the flip side, it also takes a significant amount of time and billed hours to convert all those paper documents to an electronic format.
Document integrity and recovery
Documents often need to be destroyed, and they also often need to be safe from destruction. With paper, destroying documents can be costly. Additionally, once paper is destroyed, it is gone for good. Electronic documents still exist somewhere, even when deleted. Depending on the industry, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. Those with sensitive information, like lawyers, may have a special interest in paper filing. Purposely destroying a file is only one aspect, though. Accidental destruction is especially catastrophic. Paper can deteriorate and is vulnerable to smoke, fire, spills, and other devastation if disaster strikes. Electronic files aren’t subject to those kinds of hazards. So long as the server is safe, so are the electronic documents.
When it comes to cost, productivity is a major influence on the bottom line. People who search for documents in an office setting spend an estimated 500 hours doing so each year. If a paper file is corrupted, even more time is spent trying to restore any lost information. With electronic filing, not only is it quick and easy to access a file, but also more than one person can use it at one time. People can open and close a file right from their desks. Anyone can update an electronic file with a few button clicks, and there is less concern about human error, with most software programs. This frees up a lot of time to get work done.
In the end, the total worth of converting paper files to electronic ones comes down to the importance of document integrity and accessibility. Once the conversion is complete, the hard part is over. ROI will fluctuate based on the company. However, if losing a file (one way or another) would be devastating to business, converting to electronic filing is a no-brainer. There are electronic data services available that cater to business of all sizes. They can handle everything from paper to microfilm and microfiche. When researching your options, remember: you only have to do this once. Following that, you can enjoy convenience, security, and ease for as long as your business exists.