As technology improves and the cost of digital storage plummets, a growing number of organizations are moving away from physical documents entirely, instead choosing to store their vital business data digitally in an electronic records system.
And for good reason.
Businesses who continue to rely on paper record-keeping suffer from reduced productivity, increased costs, and poor data security.
However, it can be difficult for organizations with a large volume of paper documents to migrate their historical data into an electronic system without interrupting their daily operations, especially when the data continues to pour in.
To tackle this issue, businesses often take a two pronged approach to digitization, implementing both backfile scanning and day-forward scanning programs.
Read on to learn about the differences between these scanning methods, the circumstances that call for one or the other, and how each plays an important role in records management.
What is backfile scanning?
Backfile scanning is the process of converting paper documents, microfilm, and other hard-copy historical records into digital files, so that they can be stored and accessed electronically.
Backfile scanning projects are large in scale, and typically involve the bulk scanning of archived records that have accumulated over a long period of time. It provides businesses who store documents in warehouses or offsite storage facilities the opportunity to digitize these records and store them digitally.
During the digitization process, printed text is extracted and converted into machine readable text via OCR or manual data entry, making the once static contents of these documents searchable and editable.
These documents are then categorized by ID, invoice number, or any other extracted data that can be used as a unique identifier, making locating and accessing important information efficient and effortless.
While backfile scanning is a viable way to convert existing historical records into digital files, it can be difficult if not impossible for a business to handle all on its own. The logistics of such a large project can be extremely daunting, not to mention the technical requirements of pulling off such a feat while maintaining normal business operations.
For this reason, many businesses who require backfile scanning work with a professional scanning company to help facilitate this process.
What are the benefits of backfile scanning?
Backfile scanning is beneficial for any business that requires long term storage of critical business data, either for compliance reasons or otherwise.
The main benefits of backfile scanning include reduced costs, efficient access to records, reduced filing errors, and improved security.
From a cost perspective, backfile scanning greatly reduces your archiving expenses. Rather than paying astronomical amounts of money to simply to store all of your archived records in an offsite storage facility, documents can be stored securely in the cloud for pennies on the dollar.
It can also play an important role in reducing labor costs. Many businesses who possess large archives of physical documents need to hire dedicated staff to manage these records. Others require employees to search for and pull their own records, which can be time-consuming and inefficient.
Storing documents digitally allows team members to securely access the data they need quickly and efficiently, reducing the amount of time wasted searching for documents.
Plus, you’ll be able to reclaim valuable office space and reduce funds previously wasted on document storage for more important business purposes.
Efficient Access to Records
There is no better way to improve the accessibility to your archived records than backfile scanning.
Locating physical documents from within a very large archive requires considerably more time and effort than simply searching a database, leading to reduced productivity and often, employee frustration.
Physical documents also make it difficult for employees to share information and collaborate, as a given document can only exist in one place at one time.
With backfile scanning, multiple employees are able to access the same information at the same time, and can share this information directly with the customer or vendor fairly easily when necessary.
Reduced Filing Errors
When an employee requires access to information contained in a physical document, they must first remove it from storage, use it, and then properly refile it.
This process happens every single time data is accessed, greatly increasing the chances of a filing error.
Once a physical document has been misplaced or misfiled, it can be nearly impossible to locate, which often results in lost data.
To avoid this problem, businesses must provide employees with extensive training and oversight to ensure that filing practices are well understood, and that sensitive data is handled correctly. And even then, mistakes are bound to happen, often by the most well intentioned employees.
With an electronic records system, employees are able to access and use documents without moving them, reducing their effect on the overall organization of your filing system. It also allows them to focus on their regular job duties without having to play a role in document management.
Data security is another important reason to invest in backfile scanning.
Storing critical data on physical documents increases the chances of facing compliance related issues and threatens the security of your data.
That’s because physical documents are often stolen, misplaced, damaged, or destroyed. They can be accessed by bad actors without any kind of oversight or tracking, and can be copied and distributed freely without anyone knowing.
Digital storage on the other hand provides a number of important security features that can help safeguard your data.
For starters, electronic records can be tracked and audited, with every access to a file recorded. These records provide complete visibility over who has viewed or edited a particular document.
Businesses also have the option of limiting access to data to specific departments or employees, greatly reducing the chance of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
Lastly, digital records can be stored securely in the cloud, creating a backup that a business can fall back to in the event of a data disaster.
What is day-forward scanning?
Day-forward scanning is the process of digitizing physical documents as they are generated, so that they can be integrated directly into an existing electronic filing system.
Day-forward scanning provides businesses who are unable to avoid paper documentation with the opportunity to operate paperlessly by creating a secure pipeline in which newly created documents will be added to an existing records system.
Day-forward scanning helps businesses digitize new records as they come in, eliminating the need for large and often expensive backfile scanning projects.
What are the benefits of day forward scanning?
Day-forward scanning helps businesses simplify records maintenance, centralize data, and meet regulatory compliance obligations.
Simplify Records Maintenance
Day-forward scanning prevents businesses from having to maintain two separate records systems by transforming incoming physical documents into digital files that can be used just like any other record in the system.
This helps to reduce the overall cost of records management, ensuring both your historical records and active files are accessible in the same place, and are able to share common assets like digital storage space, access controls, and more.
It also reduces confusion for employees, who would otherwise need to look for information in two different filing systems.
Day forward scanning creates a bridge between your paper documents and your electronic records, allowing you to extract and share data found within handwritten or printed documents.
As new documents are generated by your business, extracted data is made available instantly across your organization, improving communication across departments and enabling employee collaboration.
Combining all records, new and old, also creates a single source of truth, enabling businesses to analyze company data as a whole in order to make better informed business decisions.
Meet Compliance Obligations.
In most cases, businesses possess documents that must be stored for an extended period of time in order to meet regulatory compliance obligations.
In the unfortunate event of an audit, businesses who rely on excessively large paper archives can find it difficult to produce a particular set of records in a timely manner, which could lead to serious consequences, including legal fees or fines.
With day-forward scanning, businesses are able to locate and deliver relevant files when requested without having to search through filing cabinets and paper piles to do so.
What is the difference between backfile scanning and day-forward scanning?
As you have probably guessed by now, day-forward scanning and backfile scanning are two sides of the same coin. More often than not, day-forward scanning is performed in tandem with backfile scanning, and is part of a larger records management plan.
When used together, these two methods of scanning create a clear path forward for any business who wishes to transition away from paper documents.
Day-forward scanning addresses all new active documents going forward, backfile scanning creates a digital archive of historical records which are no longer generated in real time, but may need to be accessed infrequently for legal or regulatory purposes.
For some businesses, one may take priority over the other depending on your immediate need, which leads to a common question proposed by businesses looking to go paperless.
Which Comes First, Backfile Scanning or Day-Forward Scanning?
If you have a backlog of historical records that need to be digitized and a steady flow of new documents coming in, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Every business is unique, each situation is different, and depending on your requirements, it may make sense to prioritize one over the other.
In most cases, businesses start with day-forward scanning first. This produces an immediate impact on business operations, as employees are able to start using digital files right away. This is especially true for businesses whose backlog of records are rarely accessed.
On the other hand, businesses who are moving to a new location or downsizing may find it beneficial to eliminate their backlog first in order to reduce their storage space requirements.
Digitizing your active documents during your busiest season may also not be ideal, as you will need to deal with data requests, pulling documents out of the scanning process to be accessed.
As you can see, there are arguments to be made for both approaches.
What Comes Next?
If you’re ready to implement a day-forward scanning program, tackle your backlog of historical paper documents, or both, SecureScan is here to help.
No matter what your requirements are, our team will deliver results. We offer more than 19 years of document scanning expertise, knowledgeable well-trained staff, and top rated customer service that will take the headaches out of your next scanning project.