For some businesses, the promise of a paperless office is still more a dream than a reality. But it shouldn't be, as the technology has now caught up with the idea.
In fact, going paperless makes it easier to back up your work and keep it safe.
In 2014, Gartner estimated that the cost of filing, storing and retrieving paper for US businesses was between $25bn and $35bn. This cost only hints at the complexity and pitfalls involved.
Going paperless and implementing a cloud-based document management system (DMS) immediately improves things. By converting paper to digital as early as possible, and filing securely in an encrypted DMS, your company solves a lot of problems in one go, aside from just freeing up physical space.
A DMS frees you from using standard filing convention, with tags letting a document surface in different locations without having to make copies. This simplifies storage and retrieval and means that you only have the one master document. Should changes to that one document need to be made, they will be reflected everywhere without having to redo any copies.
One of the significant problems with paper storage is that it’s easy for a document to go missing, or for someone to file it in the wrong place. With a DMS, these problems go away. Now, users can only digitally check out a document, but the original copy remains in the DMS where it can’t be lost.
Remote working can also be improved by going paperless. Sales people out on the road, for example, can use technology like Brother’s scan-to-cloud to digitise documents in real time. There is no chance that a postal order, contract or other important piece of documentation can go missing before the sales person returns to base.
Storing everything in the cloud has ancillary benefits, too. First, and most importantly, the IT department no longer needs to create complex backup routines to try to save data. In this case, if a user created a local file and picked the “wrong” folder to save it in, or their computer crashed between backups, critical data could be lost.
With the cloud, every change is saved instantly without the user having to do anything. This instant approach means the old days of backups are dead.
Next, versioning is improved dramatically, as each change can be saved as a different version. Should you need to check for edits and roll back to a previous version, you will easily be able to do this. Doing the same thing with a locally stored document simply is not possible.
Thanks to the distributed nature of cloud computing, all of your data is safe in the cloud. Life in a paper-filled world was different, as a single fire could wipe out all the documents the business had to its name, including copies. Now, should your building burn down, none of your data would be lost – including all scanned documents.
While moving to the cloud is more convenient, the danger that a lot of company’s face is data security. This is particularly true with the General Data Protection Regulation that came into law in May 2018. Under this new directive, any company that fails to secure its data and maintain compliance with the law can be fined up to €20m or 4pc of its worldwide turnover, whichever is greatest.
If nothing else, the financial threat should be enough to convince companies that they need to lock down all data. Moving to a paperless world helps you do that.
With paper documents filed away in a room, it can be hard to restrict access on a per-document basis. Once an employee gets into your filing system, they can look at practically any document they want, which is a huge threat to privacy.
With a DMS and cloud storage, your business has per-document controls that it should implement. Every business should review who has access to what and make sure that they are not over-sharing. As a general rule, employees should only be able to access the data that they require to do their job, no more.
There are different levels of access, too. For example, you may want to prevent users from being able to delete documents; instead, they may be able to remove them from their view, leaving the original behind, which a system administrator can restore or look at. You should also look at other controls. Some employees, for example, may need read-only access to information, but shouldn’t be allowed to copy or print the data.
Implemented correctly, a paperless office gives your business more control over its documents, better data security, and instant backups and versions.