Having to create, process, and store tons of documents is an integral and unavoidable part of any business’ lifecycle. Previously, when the walls of nearly every office had been lined with massive file cabinets, you would have spent many hours looking for a blank W9 form or another document to send to your client. As technology is advancing, it transforms conventional document management methods, making those much more efficient and time-saving. This post will tell you more about how to set up a paperless document management system for your business effectively and effortlessly.
3 Best File Management Practices to Consider
Taking your docflow to the digital sphere might not seem like a big deal. However, things can quickly turn messy should you let yourself be careless about it. There are three crucial elements to streamlining your hard-copy archives into one secure, accessible, and customizable virtual database successfully. Keep reading for tips on how to do it right on the very first attempt.
Step 1: Digitalization
The first step toward establishing an electronic file register is to scan every paper document you already have and import all the records into a unified, centralized system. Depending on how big your existing paper archive of documents is, this one might turn out to be a very easy or a highly laborious task. If you have enough of your own resources to allocate to this activity, you can set an intern to get the job done; otherwise, you might consider outsourcing the task to a third party that provides document scanning services.
While the latter is a costlier option, there are a few significant advantages to employing professional document scanning bureaus:
You can trust them to have enough experience in handling even the most unreadable documents;
They will have all the necessary equipment and the best optical character recognition (OCR) software to process your paper documents effectively;
Their quality control division will triple-check every outgoing file to ensure its top-notch accuracy, completeness, and coherence.
Step 2: Organization
Your digital archive’s worth is measured by its accessibility and ease of file retrieval. Just as you hated having to go through piles of paper documents in your file cabinet, you would not want to have to search through an immense, disorderly digital archive, looking for one specific record. The best way to avoid this chaos is to organize all your newly-digitalized and imported documents into one centralized and user-friendly system.
Most modern OCR software does a pretty good job of personalizing each document that it processes by recognizing certain elements and keywords and attaching metadata to index it for you. However, to ensure better accuracy and organizational effectiveness of your virtual archive, you will want to individuate your records even further by adding more metadata and details manually.
- How to store?
There are two possible ways to store your digital archive – using on-premises servers or a cloud platform. Setting up your own on-site servers is a rather substantial upfront investment. It also requires hiring an additional IT workforce to perform ongoing maintenance. However, on-premises servers give you more control and easier access to your documents and allow you to take whichever protective measures you deem fit.
Cloud-based storage is cheaper since you need not invest in purchasing or maintaining any equipment. Cloud platforms also offer off-site recovery backup, which can be a huge help when your on-site system is down. One major drawback is that you risk making your business vulnerable to fraudsters if you choose the wrong cloud storage provider.
- How to secure?
Given that your digital archive is likely to contain tons of sensitive information about you and your customers, protecting it well is paramount. When choosing document management software for your business, make sure it utilizes essential security features like customizable user access permission, adaptive firewalls, AD authentication protocols, and SSL technologies.
- How to retain?
Not every file has to stay in the system for a long time. Most small businesses are advised to keep their financial records intact for seven years, while this period is usually longer for internal business files like contracts and order records. Knowing whether to retain or delete a particular document is another crucial skill you will need to master to become a document management guru.
Step 3: Cooperation
If they are trusted to revise and edit the documents, your employees need to be able to communicate effectively to avoid making any conflicting alterations to the contents of the archive. The most advanced file management systems available today come equipped with built-in tools and features to improve such collaboration within a team. They include tracking all document versions, enabling simultaneous access to the document for multiple users, adding approval hierarchy and clusters, etc.
A Few Final Words of Advice
Digitizing your paper documents and creating a well-organized, accessible, and secure virtual archive does not have to be exhausting or incredibly stressful. Not if you choose to follow the above tips that explain elaborately where to start and how to proceed.
What document management tools are you using as a small business owner? Would you recommend these same solutions to larger companies? Did you employ a specialized service to batch-scan all your docs into digital files? How do you ensure the safe storing of your archive? Feel free to leave comments and share this post with your friends!