With all aspects of business moving to digital, why do so many companies still store documents in hardcopy? Actnet MD Nolan Sandham explores this question.

The death of the filing cabinet has been exaggerated. Despite IT experts’ claims that we’re headed towards fully paperless offices, many businesses still have masses of paper and lever arch files lying around in drawers, cabinets and warehouses. Even companies that have started storing documents electronically might still have a backlog of archived documents that they hope to digitise.

On the other hand, the filing cabinet isn’t looking all that healthy either. Each year, an increasing number of companies realise the benefits of transitioning all of their important documents to a digital format. If you’re still not one of them, here’s all you need to know about digital document storage.

Simplicity

Anyone who’s had to search through a year’s worth of paper statements knows how inconvenient it can be. Physical document storage is difficult, time-consuming and has a much higher overhead cost compared to digital storage. If you’re looking for a document in an electronic repository on the other hand, it’s available to you within seconds.

One additional, less obvious benefit is that it’s much safer to store your documents digitally. Most companies wouldn’t dream of having valuable data stored without adequate backup and recovery systems in place, yet physical document storage is exactly that. If your physical storage catches fire, you may literally see your most important data go up in smoke.

Finally, electronic document storage offers greater security. With digital storage, you can encrypt your data with password protection and various levels of authentication. Depending on the kind of document, these can be customised, so that more important documents have higher barriers of entry.

How does it work?

Perhaps the biggest barrier companies face in transitioning to electronic document storage is not knowing where to begin.

The first step to consider is what kinds of documents and how many of each your company uses. You would need to create a template for each type of document and then set up business processes to upload the documents. The length of the entire process differs based on how many types you need to digitise. Some companies may only have two or three while others could have hundreds of types.

After determining the initial outlay of labour, businesses can consider how they want to host their archives – whether implementing in-house or outsourcing. While implementing in-house will give you more control, outsourcing has a number of benefits too, including reduced capital outlay and no need to devote physical resources like infrastructure and labour to maintain a document management system.

Whatever you choose, the results will show themselves immediately: greater operational efficiency, improved ROI and faster response times. So, while the filing cabinet might not be dead yet, it’s well on its way to extinction in the face of electronic digital storage.