To scan or not to scan. That is the question.

Let’s face it. Everyone has drawers and boxes full of old documents. Sometimes it is worth scanning the information and sometimes it is not. When should you spend the money and time to digitize your files?

1. If you need the keep the stuff for long periods of time, it is worth scanning. Just think about it in terms of real estate. Those boxes take up valuable space. Eliminate the physical documents by scanning them. Also, the paper documents are in danger, especially if you only have one copy. Fires, floods, rodents, mold happen all the time. Once your files are digitized, they are protected against unforeseen disasters.

2. If the documents are critical for running your business, they are worth scanning. These days, all important documents needed to run a business should be located in your computer. If you have to leave your desk and go to a filing cabinet, that is a waste of your time. Time is money. Keep all critical documents in a digital format.

3. If multiple people need access to the same documents, they are worth scanning. When many people need to have access to the same documents, it is better to scan the documents and put them on a server where they are accessible to whoever may need them. The last thing anyone wants is to hunt for a document, only to find it missing or someone else is using it. For example, a set of blueprints is important to facilities managers, contractors, engineers, mechanics, electricians, maintenance workers, etc. If that one set disappears, all of that valuable information goes along with it.

4. If the documents are irreplaceable, they are worth scanning. If the document has historical, technical, or financial importance, it is worth scanning. This is a digital age and information which is not on the computer is as good as lost.

Now the question becomes, when do I NOT digitize my documents?

1. Too many documents to make financial sense. Sometimes, volume plays a big role in the decision to digitize or not. It is an expensive undertaking and you need to decide if it is financially feasible to scan your documents. Sometimes, there are simply too many boxes. Again, think about how much space the documents take up and weigh the space v. scanning costs.

2. There is a destruction date coming close. If there is a destruction date associated with the documents, it is not a good idea to spend the money to scan the information. I like to say go back three years and scan the important stuff. Then just hang onto the boxes until their destruction dates.

3. Documents are irrelevant to today’s way of doing business. Don’t scan anything that will not be useful. Think about purging that information instead.

My best advice is to think about how you are doing business. If the documents are more useful at your fingertips on the computer, consider scanning them little by little.

“How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time!