How to Setup a Paperless Filing System With Real Files

You can access paperless filing systems from many locations, but often you have to keep the original documents in the real files for audit and paper trail purposes. In this case, it makes sense to set up the paperless filing system just like the system that holds your real files. Scan the documents, and let those who need to see the documents access the images in an electronic filing system that mimics the real folders. When you need an original, you can see the image in the paperless system, then look in the corresponding filing cabinet and file to find the document.

Things You'll Need

  • Scanner


    • 1

      Set up an electronic filing system that mimics your real file system. If you have filing cabinets in several locations, set up a folder for each location. Label each filing cabinet drawer and set up a folder for each drawer inside the location folders. Set up a folder for each manila file inside each drawer. Make sure each physical file is clearly identified and has a corresponding electronic folder with the same name.

    • 2

      Examine a representative sample of original documents to determine the format you will use for storage. Use image files if you don't need to find documents with a text-based search. Use the TIFF format for high-quality, lossless storage and the JPEG format for lower-quality, compressed storage. Use an optical character recognition program to generate text files, if needed. Store text files as PDFs for wide accessibility. Store them in Open Office Open Document Format, or ODF, if long-term support of the proprietary PDF format is a concern.

    • 3

      Scan the original documents. Use a scanner that has automatic document feed for a high volume of documents. Scan at a resolution of at least 300 dpi. Make sure you have enough storage capacity for the documents, and that your computers can handle the resulting file sizes. Use an estimated file size of 1 MB for a black and white, 8.5-by-11-inch document saved as an uncompressed image at 300 dpi, and 24 MB for the same file in full color. Scanning at 600 dpi quadruples the file size. Saving as PDF or JPEG reduces the file size by a factor of up to 10.

    • 4

      Perform sample scans at different resolutions and vary the file saving format. Access the files the way your staff would, and examine the files for quality. Make sure the loading times for the files are reasonable when accessed remotely. Decide on the highest resolution and image quality that your computers, network and storage system can handle efficiently.

    • 5

      Decide on an appropriate security approach. Apply file-level, folder-level or work-station-level passwords to control access to the electronic files. Make sure that the electronic system security approach matches the security for access to the physical files.

    • 6

      Create a backup strategy. Perform daily local backups if your data volume is large and there are frequent, major changes in the data. Contract for remote backup if the data doesn't change much. For local backups, implement procedures for off-site storage of backed-up media once a week. Test that you can restore the backed-up data once the system is in place and again annually.

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