You want to go paperless and need to figure out a digital filing system. In this video interview with documentsnap.com creator Brooks Duncan, he goes through the basics of digitizing your paper.
Brooks takes us through the pitfalls of a paper based system, why go paperless, how to go paperless, and ends with his recommendation for setting up an easy digital filing system.
Dangers of a paper based system
- Hard to search: It is harder to find a properly filed paper than it is to find a properly named and filed digital file.
- Misfiling: If a document is misfiled, it becomes very hard to find.
- Slower: With a paper based system you have to physically get up and locate a document, which if only take 15 or 30 seconds, is longer than what you can do digitally
- Backup: Unless you keep multiple copies of all your files in several locations, when a disaster strikes, your only copy is destroyed.
Why go paperless
- Fast to find: Type in the word associated with the document you want and voila, it's there.
- Reduce clutter: With no need to store papers everywhere, this gives you more space to work with and you have less papers lying around.
- Environment: Less trees used for paper = less waste.
How to go paperless
- Figure out workflow: How is the paper coming in, where's my recycling, where do I put the paper after processing, etc...
- What paper can you eliminate: Can you sign up for digital receipts from people you buy from and can you unsubscribe from places that send you mail.
- Scanner: A decent scanner will go a long way in aiding you to quickly and painlessly go paperless. A scanner that can duplex (scan two sides at once) and has ADF (automatic document feeder) are important features.
- Document Management: How will you digitally organize all your files. Sometimes it is as simple as storing in folders, no special software necessary. Other people may want a more advanced document management system.
- Searchable PDFs: Make your PDFs (documents) searchable by using OCR (optical character recognition). This usually comes with your scanner software and it will digitize the text of your scanned document, making the whole document keyword searchable.
- Name your files well: OCR is not 100%, so don't completely rely on it. Use a standard naming convention such as date_keyword. An example for a business receipt would be date_vendor_item. In Brooks' example, it would be 2011_02_28_walmart_scanner.pdf.
- Backup!: You're playing with fire, and maybe literally, if you don't back up your files. With digital files, this is dead easy and inexpensive to do. Most modern operating systems have built in backup software. You can use an external hard drive. Even better is to store a hard drive off site as well as do secure online storage.
Brooks' easy digital filing system setup
- Scanner: Fujitsu Scansnap is a crazy good scanner. Look at the reviews on Amazon for yourself.
- Document Management: If you're on Windows, the Scansnap comes with Scansnap Organizer. If you're on a Mac, it doesn't come with the software, so you can use Yep or Mariner Paperless
- Backup: Do it for free with your system's backup software. Crashplan is backup software that can help manage backups to a friend's computer (encrypted so they can't see your stuff of course), online, and to an external hard drive. It is actually free if you forgo the online storage, but even storing online is a little as $3 a month.
- Documentsnap: Your online guide to going paperless. If you do end up buying an Fujitsu Scansnap, Brooks' gets a small portion of sales for people who buy it by clicking on the Amazon link on his site. You still get the same price but might as well through some change his way if you're going to buy it online through Amazon anyways. As an added note, the purpose of this interview wasn't to promote a scanner or even Brooks, no money's being exchanged amongst us. He didn't mention his link, but since he was nice enough to give me the interview, I figured I'd help promote it for him.
- Amazon review of Scansnap: 300 customer reviews with some verging on worship as if the Scansnap were a deity.
- Mariner Paperless: Oddly enough, I had a hard time finding their website when typing in mariner and document. Got sea relatede sites. But found the link in the end.
- Yep Document Management Software from Ironic Software
- Crashplan: One amongst many backup software providers.
Questions or comments on going paperless with a digital filing system?
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I'd be more than happy to answer and I always love feedback.
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