The Case for Going from Pen and Paper to Digital

While there are instances where physical copies of documents are necessary to hold on to (i.e. the original signed and notarized copy of your will-see why in this blog post), by and large, the world today works off of digital copies, digital signatures, and shareable files.

If all your important documents, pictures, etc. are still only in physical form, you can be leaving yourself vulnerable to losing that important information and memories if there is a natural disaster of any kind or really any kind of disaster that blows through your house (kids, dogs, bad in-laws..).

In addition, there are so many instances where having digital copies of important documents can expedite sharing with family members, your financial advisor, attorney, CPA, the list goes on.

Lastly, having digital copies of documents saved makes them searchable on your devices. If you can’t remember where you saved a document, you can easily search your entire document library for things like “insurance policy” or “house deed” and it will pull up documents that match those key words. It is so much faster than rummaging through a file cabinet or safe deposit box looking for hours only to come up short.

If you, like many others, have so many file boxes of documents, and you don’t know where to start, here are some recommendations from our intern, Anna Youssef. Anna compiled everything from DIY scanning options to scanning businesses that will take care of it for you.

DIY Options

Printer/Scanner Options

If you feel up for the job and have a manageable amount of documents, there are several great printer/scanner combination options. The best options for this are:

  • HPOfficeJet Pro 9015e: This physical printer scans well and has great apps for PC and Mac computers. There is a 2-year warranty and the estimated price is $270. I personally have this printer and have found it to be very useful in scanning in documents and think it is worth the money in the long run.
  • Brother MFC-J805DW: This is the most cost-efficient printer and scanner to buy. It works for both Mac and PC computers, and easily connects through apps via cell phones. The estimated cost of this printer is $355.
  • HP Color Laserjet Pro mfp m479fdw: This printer prints and scans faster and has robust security settings. This is perfect for daily printing of any form of documents or printing out pictures for a scrapbook. The estimated cost of this printer is $1,119.

Benefits of using a physical printer or scanner:

  • Ability to print and scan from home, without the hassle and pressure of a problem occurring at the expense of someone else scanning for you.
  • A printer/scanner is a great long-term investment that will go a long way and will be so helpful to have for future scanning needs.

Scanner Apps on Smart Phones

Because your smartphone typically comes equipped with a camera, it now miraculously has the ability to be a document scanner as well. There are apps you can download on your phone that allow you to take a picture of the document with your phone and the app will convert the picture to a scanned document in pdf format.  The best apps that are most used for scanning documents from physical form to be digitized are:

  • Microsoft Lens: This app scans documents, receipts, business cards, and notes. It uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to recognize handwritten or printed text. It comes with a feature called Whiteboard Mode, where it trims and adjust colors of the photo accordingly. It automatically saves documents to Word, Excel, or in PDF format and is completely free for Iphone and Andriod.
  • CamScanner: This app also uses Optical Character Recognition to extract the text and has sharing options such as email or social media. There are built in tools like a PDF to Word converter and a QR code scanner. This app is free and can be used by Iphone and Android users. I personally use this one for all my scanning needs because I can use it on my phone and send the picture directly to my email.
  • AdobeScan: This app scans documents and automatically saves them to the Adobe Document Cloud. Users use the free version or can subscribe to a monthly Adobe PDF pack ($14.99/month) that allows you to combine files, rearrange documents, and export scans to Microsoft word or PowerPoint, and fill out or sign forms.

Benefits of using apps to scan documents:

  • Share documents easily to oneself or to others on the fly. This is, by far, the fastest and most efficient way to scan and send documents.
  • Most are free and can be easily downloaded to various devices (Phones, computers, Ipads).

Outsourcing Options

If using apps and printer/scanners are too technologically advanced for you or you are just generally overwhelmed with the amount of documents you want to scan, there are some businesses that specialize in scanning large amounts of documents for you. The best businesses to use for outsourced scanning are:

  • ARC Document Solutions: ARC is a business that helps their customers with document imaging and production services such as printing and scanning. When it comes to scanning, they can scan for large corporations and small businesses, individual boxes, and blueprint and map scanning. For $199 per box, they will scan all your documents and index them by theme or title for an easy search.
  • Thumbtack: This business offers the ability to work with an individual person to scan your documents. When you go to their website, you can look up your location and where certified professionals are in your area. The website will filter out 10 individuals that they think will meet your needs. You can click on their profile to learn more about them, their success rate in scanning, and their estimated cost per hour.
  • Local options for Middle TN: There are several business specific to the Middle TN area that assist with bulk scanning. Both Accuimage, SS Pack N Ship offer options for individual scanning needs.

Benefits of using businesses that specialize in scanning documents:

  • Most time efficient option as these companies have scanners that are much faster and intended for bulk scanning
  • These companies can typically make sure documents are searchable and can manage special criteria you may have in terms of how the files are organized. They can also shred the documents after they scan them, if preferred.

Of course, if you are going to scan sensitive or confidential documents and save them on your devices, we highly recommend you save them somewhere secure, such as a online vault like Everplans, or your password protect them.

Happy digitizing!

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