Document Conversion Services – Everything You Need to Know

Document Conversion

If you have ever used a scanner to upload a document onto your computer, then you already know what document conversion is. You scan the document, an image is uploaded to your computer, and you store it on your hard drive. There’s not much else to it.

But when it comes to document conversion services provided by a professional document scanning company, it becomes a bit more complicated.

Document conversion refers to the process of converting paper documents into electronic/digital files. The purpose of a document conversion service isn’t just creating digital copies of your paper records though, it’s also about building a faster, more efficient way of storing, searching for, and retrieving them. 

Efficient access to your data saves your organization time and money, time spent rummaging through filing cabinets searching for documents, money spent paying employees for that time.

Replacing outdated paper processes with modern document management solutions should be a no-brainer for any organization, but the road to get there can feel daunting, especially for organizations with a huge backlog of paper sensitive documents to digitize.

Questions about where to begin, how to conduct daily operations during the process, and details about how the process works are very common. In most cases, the major effort of migrating from paper to electronic records is a one-time process, so why shouldn’t you have questions?

Whether you have a few thousand documents to scan or a backlog of a million files, working with a document scanning company is by far the easiest way to move your business into the digital age. From setting up the project to choosing a document management system, working with an experienced team can help you get the most out of your documents.

What are the benefits of going paperless?

No matter what industry you are in, the benefits of going paperless are immediate and drastic. Moving away from inefficient paper processes provides a boost in productivity and improvements in security. By transitioning away from outdated paper processes, generally experience the following benefits:

  • Immediate Access: Locating your files is near-instantaneous, eliminating wasted time thumbing through stacks of paper to find what you’re looking for. Conduct keyword searches against specific index fields to quickly locate your records.
  • Better Organization: Key identifiers on your documents, including invoice numbers, client ids, dates, or pretty much anything else you can think of can be converted to searchable metadata via OCR or manual data entry, helping you categorize your documents more effectively.
  • Cost Savings: The physical footprint of onsite paper storage makes it an expensive way to store your documents. By digitizing your records, you can store thousands of files for pennies per dollar compared to commercial office space charged per square foot.
  • Improved Collaboration: Paper files can only be in one person’s hands at a time. With digital files, you can share data with multiple team members simultaneously, regardless of physical location.
  • Disaster Prevention: Paper records are prone to damage, loss, and theft. Digital files can be secured by encryption and backed up to multiple locations, making a data loss disaster nearly impossible.
  • Reclaim Space: Re-appropriate your new-found office space for more important tasks while reducing paper clutter.

How does a document conversion service work?

Transforming a wall of filings cabinets into a cloud based document management system might seem like a complicated task, but in reality the process is simple. From paper to paperless, the entire process can be broken down into 4 simple steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Document Scanning
  3. Indexing
  4. Disposal

Step 1. Preparation

The first step to any document conversion project is preparation. When converting a large number of documents, you’re going to need to prioritize and organize.

You can start by logically grouping your files, do this as granularly as you’d like. Even identifying and organizing by the box full is better than nothing. Remember that the more organized you are upfront, the more streamlined the process will be. It’s much easier to make plans before the scanning starts, rather than trying to course-correct mid-scan.

Deciding which documents you need to access throughout the conversion process and which you can do without, even temporarily, is another important part of this process. Depending on the number of files you need to digitize, converting and indexing your documents can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. You’ll want to be sure you can conduct normal business operations while the process takes place.

You’ll also want to digitize the most frequently accessed data first if possible, so that you get the greatest benefits upfront. Then you can move on to archived data that you may not need immediate access to.

Step 2. Document Scanning

Next up is the scanning process. Some companies may refer to this as document imaging or document digitization, but these are just different names for the same process.

After you hand off your documents to the scanning team, they will inspect each document to ensure that it’s ready to pass through the scanning equipment. That includes removing staples, paperclips, or creases that could interfere with producing a quality scan and setting aside any potentially problematic documents. SecureScan will handle this process for you, but not every scanning company will, so it is wise to ask first to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

Scanning technicians will then develop a scanning pipeline/process depending on your needs, In some cases, they may even create custom scanning protocols to make the process more efficient, like defining a template for data capture on a large number of documents with a similar layout. This makes the indexing step faster and more accurate.

Your documents are then fed into professional-grade, high-speed scanning equipment.  These are not your average consumer scanners, these are designed to process 150 sheets per minute or more, outputting high resolution 300 dpi image files. In most cases, these files are saved as .pdf or .tif image files to be used with any document management software.  

Professional document conversion equipment - Fujitsu fi-6800 Scanner

Step 3. Indexing

When you have thousands of documents you need to convert, the process can get pretty overwhelming, pretty quickly. Simply passing a bunch of documents into a scanner won’t get you far, you need to create a system of categorizing and storing your documents in an organized way, so that you can easily locate and retrieve the information contained in those documents when you need it. 

Document indexing is the process of identifying the specific pieces of information contained in a set of documents that will later be used to create an index, allowing you to search for them.

Imagine that you have a large batch of invoices that you would like to digitize. You probably already know how to organize them in a way that makes it easy to find what you are looking for: by invoice number or client name for example. 

In fact, it’s likely that you would have already done this with your paper documents. Each filing cabinet in your office may hold the invoices from a specific year, and in that year, folders group documents by last name, dividing those documents into a logical group. 

The index created during the conversion process works in the same way.  Each important identifier can be used to create the digital equivalent to a  “table of contents” that maps the data to a corresponding file. 

This data is known as metadata, data associated with a file that provides information about its contents. By adding this metadata, you can easily locate a single invoice by searching for those specific pieces of information. 

Its incredibly important to ensure that this metadata is accurate, after all, the index is the most valuable part of your digital archive. Without it, you would be unable to locate a specific piece of information without looking at every single file. 

At SecureScan, we leverage double key indexing, a verification method in which every automated scan is manually reviewed by a human operator for errors or inconsistencies. This ensures the document conversion process results in an archive that expedites accurate retrieval of any document.

Step 4. Disposal

Now that your files are scanned, indexed, and uploaded to a document management system, chances are you’re never going back to paper. So what then should you do with your old documents after they’ve been converted?

If you need to hang on to your original paper files, you can look into long term document storage solutions. Many companies offer services centered around storing paper documents en masse, and that can be a great option to help you meet retention requirements for your documents. Plus, storage is relatively inexpensive, usually at the cost of accessibility.

Another option is a one time shredding service. Most scanning companies also offer secure shredding services to make it easier to get rid of your documents after they have been scanned. Of course, you could simply throw your files out in the trash, but that exposes any private information on those files to risk of theft.

The major benefit of a professional shredding service is that your data is destroyed in compliance with data privacy protection laws, making it easy for your business to meet strict privacy compliance.

What’s next?

Now that you understand the process and how it can benefit your business, it’s time to find a scanning company near you.