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Records: Scan or Store?

Inevitably, the one question we hear at the beginning of a project is this:

Should I scan my current and permanent records, or just keep them in storage?

Actually, this question is the one that “launches a thousand ships” and often is the reason organizations buy Laserfiche. Is it better for your company to keep physical copies of your documents or to scan them into an electronic format?

When it comes to document scanning vs. document storage, everyone has their own opinion and it can be hard to decide which is the best option for you. And the decision isn’t all or nothing, sometimes a hybrid is the best solution.

Records Scanning

First, let’s review what records scanning is. Records scanning is the process of converting paper files, microfilm rolls, or microfiche into a digital format. That’s why you’ll hear the terms records scanning and records conversion used interchangeably. Some organizations are subject to government or industry mandates that state what format they store their records in, depending on the type of record. These mandates, known as compliance, are a critical factor to consider when weighing your options.

The actual scanning process can vary by vendor and material type. For instance, large format drawings and plans are scanned much differently than 8’1/2 by 11’ batches. And the assigning of metadata to the image can differ as well.

Some of the primary reasons that companies scan their hard copy records into digital files are:

  • Improve information access and workflow processes

  • Reduce physical handling and staff time finding documents

  • Create backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity

  • Reduce office space requirements

  • Compliance mandates

Records Storage

Records storage is keeping your hard copy documents for retrieval or retention purposes, either at your own office or an off-site storage facility or records center.

Physical records such as paper files, medical records, books, microfilm, microfiche, and so on, are normally stored in boxes, in cabinets, or on shelves. Depending on how many files you have, and how much space is available, you might be using a single closet to store a few boxes of documents, a basement full of paper and film or you may have 10 cabinets full of microfiche.

One quick note, if you have microfilm (including microfiche and aperture cards) be sure that your storage is environmentally controlled, otherwise you might ruin your valuable records.

Records storage is important because the information contained on your documents is either necessary for daily operations or you are required to maintain the records because of internal or regulatory records retention guidelines. One thing to consider is that If you only have a hard copy version of the files, you may not be able to dispose of it. And if you are required to keep two copies (separate and independent) storage can be quite an expensive endeavor for your company.

Reasons to store records include:

  • Retention requirement (long-term storage for permanent records)

  • Low access, the organization does not need to reference records

  • A less expensive option is to do nothing

What should I do?

It depends. Yes, I hate this answer too. Here are a few scenarios:

  • A great number of active records requiring access- Have your records converted. Digital access will allow faster access saving time and you can build workflows. Also, depending on your industry, compliance mandates are easier to fulfill when your records are digital.

  • A great number of permanent records, little access needed- Have your records scanned for archival reasons. What if something happens to your storage facility?

  • Few records requiring constant access- Again, digital records will give your team faster, anywhere, anytime access and greater security. Plus, what if there was a fire or flood? Digital records are secure and it’s easy to get up and running if there’s an emergency.

  • Few records requiring infrequent access- In this case, we recommend that your records stay in their current format.

Now it’s your turn. What are you going to do with your valuable records? If you are interested in speaking to someone about your records strategy? Please ping me at



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