Scanning Versus Digitizing – Definitions, Differences, and Benefits

Both document scanning and digitization serve crucial roles in modern document management. These processes not only help in saving space and costs, but also enhance accessibility, security, and regulatory compliance. By understanding the differences and benefits of each, organizations can make informed decisions and develop an effective document management strategy that aligns with their specific needs.

What Is Document Scanning?

Document scanning is the process of converting physical documents into digital images with a scanner. This process typically involves capturing an image of the document at a high resolution (300dpi or higher), and then saving it in a lossless format (PDF or TIFF) for archival purposes

Document scanning reduces storage requirements, improves accessibility to information, and helps you protect your data by creating a digital backup of your physical documents. 

However, there are cases where simply scanning documents is not enough. That’s because this method only creates a single searchable “index”, (the file name), which can make it more difficult to retrieve any given file. 

That’s where the digitization process comes into play.

What Is Digitization?

Digitization is the process of converting printed and handwritten text contained on a scanned document into a digital format that is readable by computers.

Just like document scanning, the process starts with creating a digital image of the original document. Then, optical character recognition software is used to convert the contents of the document into  machine-encoded text.

This allows for keyword searching, text editing, and data mining, taking data manipulation to a whole new level. 

With digitizing, not only can you store and retrieve information more easily, but you can also analyze and interpret it, fostering data-driven decision making.

What is the Difference Between Document Scanning and Digitization?

While both document scanning and digitization transform physical documents into digital files, the end result differs in functionality and output.

Document Scanning:

  • Creates a high quality image of a document.
  • Resulting files are not editable or searchable.
  • Perfect for archiving historical documents or creating digital one-to-one copies of physical documents.


  • Adds searchable metadata to files to make them searchable by text
  • Often involves  OCR technology to digitize the contents of the document.
  • Ideal for frequently accessed documents or to create editable files.

Key Benefits of Document Scanning and Digitization

Implementing a document scanning and digitization strategy offers numerous benefits to organizations including:

  1. Save Space: Digital documents occupy virtual space instead of cluttering up your office, reducing the need for physical storage space.
  2. Increase Accessibility: Digital files can be accessed simultaneously by multiple employees at once, enhancing collaboration and productivity among your workforce.
  3. Improve Security: Digital documents can be encrypted, backed up in the cloud, and protected with access controls to ensure that sensitive information is only accessible to those who need it, and no one else.
  4. Save Money: Eliminate expenses associated with paper-based records management, including paper, printers, filing cabinets, and more.
  5. Increase Efficiency: Reclaim employee time spent rummaging through filing cabinets in search of physical documents for more important business-centric tasks.
  6. Business Continuity: Create multiple redundant copies of mission critical data, supporting business continuity in the unfortunate event of a natural disaster or other calamity.
  7. Regulatory Compliance: Digitization makes it easier to comply with document retention requirements and privacy protection laws that may apply to your organization.

Choosing Between Document Scanning and Digitization

The decision to use document scanning or digitization largely depends on your business needs as well as the frequency of access to your documents..

Choose document scanning if your primary goal is to create a digital archive of physical documents for long-term storage and retrieval. It’s ideal for businesses that need to retain documents for compliance but rarely need to access these documents.

Choose full digitization if you want to make the information within your documents searchable and editable. It allows you to fully integrate your documents into digital workflows, making them a dynamic part of your business processes.

Keep in mind that these two processes are not mutually exclusive. Many organizations find value in both scanning and digitizing documents depending on the intended use of the digital files. 

For example, a business wants to go fully paperless. However, they have an archive of old client files which they no longer access but would like to keep, either for historical or compliance reasons. In this scenario, the business can use document scanning alone to create an archive for their older files, and digitize current customer files so that they can be integrated into a fully electronic records management system.

Get Started With Digitization

If you’re ready to start digitizing your documents but you aren’t sure where to start, we can help. For more than two decades, SecureScan has been helping organizations of all sizes and industries transform their paper documents into a text-searchable archive of digital files. Our straightforward approach and secure processes will take all of the stress out of your next document scanning project. Contact us for more information or try out our document scanning cost calculator to find out how we stack up against the competition.

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