By Amy O. Anderson

When building a small business from the ground up, business owners tend to focus on the “big picture” elements—products, employees, tools, and the physical foundation the business is built on. Saving documentation isn’t always a priority, let alone organizing or preserving it for the future.

Aside from being eco-friendly, digitization of paper records provides a digital archival plan for your business’s future. How else would you be able to efficiently and concisely find documents whenever you need them? Even if your business is already utilizing digital records, making sure they’re organized and used efficiently is essential to long-term growth, scalability, and innovation. Whether you’re just starting out or looking back twenty years to see how far you’ve come, digitization is a tool that, when done correctly, can revolutionize your business.

What Is Digitization?

Digitization is the preservation of paper documents, but it’s more than just scanning papers and saving them to a folder on your computer. Files of scanned images lose a lot of their value if you’re unable to find what you need on the page when you need it. When properly digitized and archived, searching scanned documents is leagues more efficient than combing through boxes and shelves of physical records.

Digital preservation techniques such as metadata tagging and optical character recognition allow for quick search and create a permanent history of your business’s growth.

The physical, legal, security, and preservation benefits of digitization can completely change the momentum of your business when faced with unexpected challenges.

Here are five ways that digitizing your paper records will transform your business’s future.

1. Storage

Digitizing paper documents frees you from the cost and stress of storing physical copies. Not only is paper fragile and susceptible to the elements, but file cabinets of paper records or off-site storage facilities can be costly and impractical. Digital copies can be stored on an in-house server or on the cloud, allowing you to store larger amounts of data for a fraction of the cost and safely dispose decades of documents taking up valuable office space.

2. Backups

Multiple, redundant, digital backups are critically important when going paperless. Taking the time to talk with your IT provider to determine the best way for you to have multiple redundant backups will give your organization a tremendous boost. Cyber threats target more small businesses every year, and without trusted and tested backups, a paperless office can be leveled with one attack. The only way to ensure you won’t have to pay thousands of dollars for the chance to get your data back is to implement a secure system of backups.

3. Organization

This is a part of the digitization process that’s often overlooked, but it’s essential to the functionality of digital preservation. Indexing records as they’re being digitized enables efficient access for the future. When tax officials or HIPAA compliancy groups come knocking, you’ll know exactly where and how to retrieve specific documents thanks to metadata-enhanced search features. Once digitized, access to files can be specified per employee for security and privacy. Digitization is a secure, organized alternative to paper documents, which are easily lost or mishandled.

4. Keeping Your Data Current

Remember floppy disks? Technology evolves constantly, which means file formats and digital storage methods from as little as ten years ago are already obsolete on modern computers. Archival digitization guidelines maintain access to your data for the decades to come by saving digital files in archival formats created to remain consistent over time. Digital preservation standards require updating any file formats about to become unreadable to current or new archival formats so you’ll never have to worry about obsolescence.

5. Mobile Access

For businesses on the go, digitization can enable mobile access. Secure access through cloud servers, for example, means that employees who are travelling or working remotely have access to all the records they need right at their fingertips. Protections offered today such as encrypting your laptop’s drive allow you to do this securely. Cloud servers also enable collaborative work and file sharing, keeping everything streamlined and efficient.

A thorough paperless digital plan can boost your employees’ efficiency and brings your company’s past into the future with you. The information you need is just a click away.