In order to justify the conversion costs of scanning you must receive REAL benefits that offset the expense.
A few of the benefits include:
Store Information Electronically
Information that’s stored electronically after it’s been digitally scanned into the database can be password protected and encrypted, protecting it from prying eyes. These documents can also be accessed with ease from a central location with a click of the mouse. Employees no longer have to go searching through countless piles of paper or drive to off-site locations.
Increase Office Efficiency
Once a document scanning and imaging system has been implemented, there will be a noticeable increase in office efficiency. Employees won’t have to deal with a complex filing and recording system, and they can often scan documents into the system right from their own desk. Businesses can benefit greatly from implementing a digital scanning process. Savings from reduced storage, combined with increased employee efficiency, will help increase your company’s profit.
Never Lose a Record or Document Again
Many businesses have piles and piles of paperwork sitting in various cubicles and office spaces. I see it all the time. No one can find anything. This lack of organization is harmful to your business.
Records and documents often get lost in situations like this, and with no electronic image of the original document, you have no proof of what was on that piece of paper. Whether it was an employee file, an invoice or a client billing statement, businesses that find themselves in this type of situation often lose a significant amount of money. Document scanning takes away these issues altogether. When you scan a document into an electronic database, you never have to worry about losing it again.
Document Storage Costs are Lowered
Storing paper records can cost thousands of dollars per month, depending on how much space you need. These types of costs significantly cut into a company's bottom line and take precious funds away that could be used for a more productive purpose. When you partner with a company that specializes in digital scanning, you can almost eliminate storage costs. You will no longer need off-site storage space to house old documents or to pay a clerk to supervise a long and drawn out filing process. The trade-off is the expense involved in setting up a scanning operation of your own, or outsourcing conversion to digital documents.
Call us at 918-664-6164 for some ideas on how best to convert your records to digital images. Our phones are answered by a Data Storage employee everytime, day or night.
When storing records for compliance purposes, records must be protected from pests, humidity and heat. Inventory controls must be maintained and retention and destruction needs to be managed very carefully. In order to meet these basic requirements, some choices need to be made.
- Where are the records going to be housed?
- How are we going to control our records inventory?
- How are we going to manage records destruction?
Self-storage units are the most common method of offsite storage. These units offer a fair amount of security. Most facilities are gated and have on site custodians that keep an eye out for trespassers. Self-storage units are also locked and access to the units can be controlled by the document manager by just being stingy with the key. Self-storage units are often one of the most economical ways to obtain space as well. Other than commercial records centers like Data Storage, no other semi-secure space can be had in 80-100 square foot increments at such reasonable rates.
However, the drawbacks of storing records in self-storage are a little disturbing. Do you know what is being stored in the unit next to yours? The whole point in maintaining and keeping these documents is to protect your organization from liability, provide proof of transactions, etc. If someone runs a meth lab out of the unit next to your records, your records could be burned, damaged or irreparably contaminated by harmful chemicals. I have seen spills of gasoline; paint and petroleum products in neighboring units seep under walls and destroy documents many times.
Self-storage units are also difficult to keep clean. Dust, insects and moisture are constants in this environment. This makes the self-storage less than optimal for maintain viable archives. The dust and moisture necessitate the use of shelving to get the records off of the ground to protect from ants, termites and water.
The purchase of shelving and the transportation needed to haul records cartons to and from the storage unit further add to the inconvenience and expense of this arrangement.
While the cost can be attractive, the lack of protection, lack of convenience, and risks associated with an uncontrolled environment might outweigh the cost savings of professional records storage services.
We invite you to contact us for a storage quote. You may find that records storage companies like Data Storage may provide the best value for document storage!
We all want to go paperless and would...except we still have a lot of paper. Bridging the gap between paper and digital records is a big step towards a paperless environment. We bridge those worlds with record indexing. Record indexing makes your paper records searchable on your computer by capturing important identifying data from the paper originals.
Properly indexed information is separated into various categories for easy searching, retrieval and manipulation. Indexes for medical records might include patient info, document types and visit info. Medical records indexes could include:
- Name: Scott Hambrick
- Date of Birth: Long time ago
- Doc Type: Labs
- Last Date of Service: 2/17/2013
Once this indexing is completed, our customers can search for individual medical records by document type, patient name, patient DOB or the last visit date. Indexing by these criteria allow records managers to locate the records they need (name, DOB), or to pull reports of records eligible for destruction (DOB, Date of service.)
Things to consider when undertaking an indexing project:
- What should we index first?
- For example, some clients may need older sets of records indexed first. Companies that regularly deal with IRS scrutiny may need immediate access to old financial records and invoices.
- In other instances, newest records should be indexed first as they are most frequently searched and accessed.
- Indexing must be performed by trustworthy, professional staff members.
- Indexing analysts have access to sensitive information or trade secrets.
- For maximum records security, thoughtful managers reserve the most sensitive indexing jobs for employees with proven integrity.
- Naming conventions
- Use consistent index subject terms. Since index subject organization is critical, it's trouble when problematic when index names mean different things in different contexts. By the same token, it can complicate data retrieval when indexers use multiple terms with the same essential meaning.
- We always consider the accuracy rates required by the customer and do statistical checks to achieve accuracy targets.
- If complete accuracy is a necessity, we often do double entry record indexing. Two indexing clerks key the indexes for a set of records. Our software matches the work of the two clerks. If it matches exactly the work is accepted. If there are discrepancies, the work is schedule for a redo. Accuracy is SUPER high with double entry.
- What should we record?
- Indexes that are necessary to the record
- Without an oil well name, a well file isn’t very useful. Without an amount, a check stub isn’t complete. Let’s record those things.
- Indexes that aid in managing the record
- Last activity dates allow managers to create lists of records that are eligible for destruction. These dates could be dates of service on medical records, expiration dates on lease files or maturity dates on commercial loans.
- Department codes could provide information about who is responsible for the record.
- Indexes that aid in your work.
- If you look up Purchase Orders by PO numbers, you better index the PO number. Remember, you aren’t limited to searching for records by one criteria like you are when they are filed alphabetically in a file cabinet. You can search for a record by any criteria you record. Name, Date, Number, Description and more can be queried to provide you with very specific and useful results.
We index tens of thousands of records every week at Data Storage We have created records indexing guidelines for each customer and document type we work with. We use these to train our indexing clerks. I’d be glad to share some of that information with you if it would help with your project.
For more information, watch this video on How To Index Records.
Contact us for advice and assistance!
A city hospital in a rural Oklahoma town contacted Data Storage, Inc., in 2012 to request information on off-site storage for an unknown number of medical records. The medical records department was overflowing with files, many of which were considered inactive as they were for deceased patients, were birth records or were files that were already several years old. In addition, the hospital had a large, unknown number of boxes of medical records stored in self-storage units throughout the town.
They faced a multitude of logistical and HIPAA-mandated issues. Their medical files were very difficult to locate because the hospital lacked an inventory and location system. Inactive files could have been in any number of file rooms, self-storage units or hospital attics. A large number of files were eligible for destruction. Because HIPAA requires that an organization be able to produce a list of records that have been destroyed, document destruction would require inventorying every medical record in the hospital’s archive. The inventory was logistically impossible for them to produce as they had lost control of their records management. Their storage costs were beginning to spiral out of control with no clear end in sight.
They asked Data Storage, Inc., to consult on their records management issues. While the task seemed overwhelming to the hospital, Data Storage was able to break each project into manageable components, allowing the hospital to reduce costs, manage records to be stored, make decisions about records to be destroyed and retrieve any file needed within a two-hour span.
As the hospital continues to move toward an electronic document management system as directed by the federal government, Data Storage is able to further assist by imaging inactive files as needed, once again allowing the hospital to pay for only those records of active or returning patients.
This project has spanned several months. Data Storage was able to – within two business days – pick up all files in the hospital’s storage units and box up inactive and birth records and those of deceased patients in the medical records room. Upon delivery to our warehouse, we indexed every patient file within each box, enabling the hospital to access a list of patient files for retrieval, destruction, statistical analysis, etc. There were thousands of files, and this process took several weeks. The hospital is now in the process of determining which files can be destroyed, which will save them money as they pay for only what is in storage.
The latest project within the hospital is to organize and manage the thousands of X-rays stored in their facilities area, thereby saving them space and money. The hospital is outsourcing the management of these records to Data Storage, Inc.
While the initial processing and inventorying of their records cost money up front, their overall monthly storage rates were reduced by 35%. Their staff are able to perform the jobs for which they were hired and no longer spend hours in hot, dirty storage units looking for files. The hospital’s costs continue to decline as Data Storage assists with selecting records that can be destroyed, thereby reducing the overall number of boxes held in managed storage. The benefits of outsourcing the hospital’s files and storage are many, and they continue to be an example of efficient and effective records management.
We know how overwhelming big projects can seem. We've got checklists that will simplify each step...at no cost.
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Optical Character Recognition for Document Scanning
Advances in technology are slowly creating a world in which physical printed information will become unnecessary. As the demand for information to be digitized increases, there is a need for fast, efficient ways to digitize and search documents that already exist in a physical form. That's why demand for optical character recognition (OCR) scanning software has increased so much in recent years. Here's a basic look at how this complex software turns a scanned page of text into information any computer can search easily. Before we discuss how it works, consider the difficulties associated with what character recognition software is trying to do.
Why This Software is Complicated
Document scanning/OCR software is designed to convert text into a searchable digital text document. This sounds easy enough, except for the fact that so many fonts, sizes, formats and quality issues exist in the original documents we scan. Because of this, there is no such thing as a perfect solution for achieving high-quality OCR. As computer programmers spend more time on the problem, however, character recognition is improving, and so is the accuracy of such programs.
How OCR Works
Pre-processing: The first step is to "clean up" a scanned document as much as possible. OCR software uses a variety of techniques to remove artifacts from low-quality scans, straighten crooked images, and remove any blurs to make the OCR process as accurate as possible. Specks are removed, contrast is adjusted and text is sharpened. After pre-processing, OCR begins.
The First Pass: Most modern OCR software for document scanning operates on a two-pass principle. What this means is that the software runs through every document it scans twice. The first "pass" is done without any previous knowledge of the document. The program scans commonly-occurring symbols and breaks them down into their basic shapes, picking out the letters it has high confidence about. In other words, it focuses on the most obvious symbols first, so it can start building a library of what a specific person's handwriting looks like.
The Second Pass: The next step is to take the letters the program has high confidence about and use an internal dictionary to start guessing at words that might fit. The best OCR software for document scanning is capable of checking for the grammar and usage in a sentence, much the same way a good text editor does. While accuracy is never a guarantee, these two passes can ensure at least reasonable accuracy, and the methodology is constantly improving.
OCR has come a long way in recent years, and as we digitize more of our information, its lifespan increases. We are able to OCR documents by a number of different methodologies and hold licenses for several of the leading OCR technologies such as ABBYY, Nuance and OpenText. We can run tests on your documents to determine which of these software programs gives you the best results.
More about document scanning services here.
A friend of mine (not a customer) asked me, “Why would I outsource document management?”
“If you have extra space, you can label your storage boxes and rent some of the basement from the landlord.”
Naturally, I was angry with my buddy for not advocating my services 24/7, but as a long-time records management nerd and provider of professional document management services, I have an answer.
Everyone has storage. Your records are currently stored. They may be wet, crushed, crowded or lost, but they are stored.
Ultimately, if all your business needs is to store a few boxes of documents, you probably don’t need the wide range of services a document management company could specifically tailor to your business.
Good businesses grow, however.
Growing Businesses Need Document Management
Document production escalates. When you are growing you find your file cabinets bulge past their breaking point. When your market is telling you that you can support two more salespeople, you need to carve up the back room document storage space to make room for REVENUE GENERATION! Your new hires will generate even more records to manage. In the face of all this, no one wants to hire a document manager. That’s where I can help.
Document Management Companies Provide for Secure Records, Accessibility and Flexibility
Outsourcing document management to Data Storage, Inc. gets you a lot more than storage. You get:
The Value of Outsourcing Document Management
Small and mid-size businesses can’t afford the personnel to oversee their irreplaceable records throughout the course of their life cycle. And most of the time they don’t need a full-time document manager. To keep businesses on a growth curve, payroll and floor space are better devoted to sales and production than administration. Hiring us as a contractor is inexpensive and provides a lot more services and experience than the average business can develop and sustain on its own.
Professional document management with Data Storage won’t distract your administrative and IT staff from their other highly important roles. The bottom line is that we make sure you know what records you have, where they are, who has seen them and how long you need to keep them—and you don’t have to lift a finger.
That’s why you should outsource document management services.
After moving from the world of libraries and knowledge management into the imaging and storage business a year ago, I find myself continually amazed by corporate inconsistency in the use of the word “paperless." I speak to more than a hundred clients weekly, most of whom want to talk about the importance of being paper free. But what do they really want?
Having a paperless office means exactly that! NO PAPER! Everything you do is electronically based. For the average employee in the workforce, regardless of generation, this concept is foreign and causes angst and consternation. While potential clients can explain what paperless means, they really mean that they want to be ‘paper-less,' to have documents and files available electronically AND to be able to touch the paper should they not trust the image displayed on their computer screen.
Reality says that we as American consumers will continue to be immersed in paper for the near future, but being less paper intensive is a realistic option. For those exploring their “paper-less” options, I ask the following questions:
1) What is your objective in having digital images?
2) What does a paper-less or less paper office look like to you?
3) How much paper is acceptable?
4) What will you do with the documents once they are imaged?
5) Are you willing to enforce the less-paper environment?
6) Are you willing to rid yourself and your office of all paper?
If after asking those questions, you determine that you should scan only some of your records, our recommendation at Data Storage, Inc. when determining what to scan or not to scan is based on a few questions:
1) How often do you or others need particular file types?
2) What is your retention policy on various file types?
3) Does the document have “value” to the company?
4) Does a particular document need to be shared throughout the organization?
If you have a large need to share documents, if they have cash value, if they contain valuable data that should be in a database, or if they are necessary for ongoing operations, they need to be scanned.
Common types of documents we recommend to be scanned are below:
1) Oil and gas records – long lived, add value to the organization and imaging allows them to be shared
2) Medical records – because the government requires it
3) Blueprints and drawings – long-term value
4) Aged and historical documents – long-term and historic value
5) HR records, especially Workers’ Comp – because Big Daddy will come back to bite you where it hurts the most!
6) Financial records – mortgages, liens, trusts, wills – any financial documents needed for perpetuity
We, at Data Storage, Inc., will scan anything – even your toilet paper! However, the reality is that document imaging and scanning can be expensive and most documents have no need to be imaged or do not provide an immediate return, especially when talking about past documents.
It is not that all documents need to be scanned or that I am trying to dissuade you from scanning every file and piece of paper in your office; I want to generate thought as to what truly needs to be kept for the next generation or can simply go into the shredder today—which, by the way, we also provide shredders and shredding services.
Our motto at Data Storage is “Shred as fast as you can, but no faster than you should.”
Depending on your industry’s compliance rules, you can use this as a guide:
- Short-lived records:
- Phone records
- Meeting invitations
- Administrative emails
- Longer-lived Records:
- Purchase orders
- Insurance claims
- Accounting records
- Payroll records
- HR records
- Long-lived Records:
- Product liability related records
- Project files
- Oil & Gas records
- Medical records
It easier said than done, but we can help. Drop us a line if you have questions about how long you should be keeping your records. We find that most of our new records storage customers are able to destroy about 30% of their records once implementing our plans.
For larger companies, Records Retention Scheduling can be complex. We invite you to download our comprehensive Records Retention Guide.
Or, if you’re ready to shred,
Modern microfiche is one of the best, most stable records storage and archival media. It’s water resistant, very stable and it doesn’t absolutely require a special reader. It can be viewed with a magnifying glass and a light source if we experience a zombie apocalypse. Some manufacturers claim 500-year lives for their fiche.
In spite of these virtues, if you want it to last that long you need to care for it.
- Pack it tightly. This prevents oxygen from oxidizing your fiche or film.
- Keep it cool. Low temperatures slow any harmful chemistry that could be going on.
- Keep it in the dark.
- Don’t damage it. Duh.
A customer in Kansas City mentioned that the microfiche they store on-site seemed to be fading. I just visited them and had a look at (and a sniff of) their fiche.
Reminder: Fiches look like index cards; film looks like a roll of film. Most degradation problems are with films, as they are mostly on acetate. Microfiches are generally much more stable, as they are more modern and almost always on polyester substrate instead of cellulose acetate.
Here’s what I was looking for:
- Is the film discolored? Blue or pink color of the acetate film could mean that it’s turning acidic.
- Are the envelopes or boxes where the film is stored crumbly? That could mean some old films are outgassing hydrochloric acid. Sometimes it’ll even rust the file cabinets.
- Is the film/fiche sticky, brittle or shrinking? Old, old stuff is on acetate substrate, and that can degrade in a number of ways, resulting in nasty film/fiche.
- Can you see red or gold spots on the docs? More degradation.
- The biggest one is … does the film smell like vinegar? The acetate in older film can turn to acetic acid. Vinegar is 5% acetic acid. If it smells like vinegar, you’ve got trouble. Vinegary films can even infect other films in your collection and cause them to deteriorate. If you smell vinegar, pull ‘em immediately.
- Damage. Most film/fiche trouble I see is from careless handling. Scratching can make the films hard to read and can actually remove emulsion from the film and cause the images to fade.
The fiche my customer had was about 40 years old and was super stable and not deteriorating at all. The quality issues they saw were because of accumulated scratches and damage. The fading the customer was experiencing was simply a general loss of clarity from 40 years of accumulated damage.
If you think you’ve got some film going south, inspect it against my criteria here. Or call me out to your facility and I’ll give you an idea of what’s going on with your micro’d records.
If you’ve got some bad ones, your options are as follows: duplicate the fiche/film on new media, attempt splicing/repairs or digitize the film and fiche. We do a lot of the digitizing to render the documents stable.
Scanning film and fiche is pretty inexpensive, as there is almost no prep. (No staples!) Handling is easy, and formats are really consistent, as everything is the same size.
We’ve seen dramatic improvements in document sharing and collaboration options for small and medium-sized businesses. There are three basic models you can choose from:
- Software that runs on your internal server network. After installing the software, you hit the icon, log in and the documents are located on your internal network. If you aren’t in the office, you can access documents remotely with a remote desktop connection.
- Software installed on a web server that you own. Users can log in from an Internet browser with a username and password to access documents.
- Software as a Service (SaaS). You don’t own the software or hardware. It’s “in the cloud” and you pay a monthly fee. Like the previous options, users can log in from an Internet browser with a username and password to access documents, but backups and storage are the responsibility of the SaaS provider.
The best match for your company will depend on the number of users and remote locations, volume of documents, security concerns, internal IT resources, and scanning requirements for older documents that were not created in electronic format.
Regardless of the document sharing and collaboration solution you choose, you’ll be able to share documents online with co-workers and business associates, reaping the benefits of....
- Instant, online access to information
- Lower labor costs
- Audit trails for compliance
- Security controls
- User activity logs
- Collaboration on editing
- Document history
- Records retention processes
- Simplified disaster recovery
- Automated data backups
The time to implement document sharing and collaboration solutions can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. As you might suspect, annual costs for these systems can vary widely. If you have to purchase hardware and software, you’ll also need to include labor expenses for IT. With a cloud-based solution, you might pay by the user and/or by the volume of storage required.
As independent records management consultants, Data Storage™ can recommend, sell, install, integrate, implement and provide training on document sharing systems. We can give you a ballpark figure if that’s all you need. We are authorized providers of Fortis, ImageSilo and other solutions. We currently work with existing systems such as SharePoint, Summation, Oracle, SQL, Sage, SAP, Microsoft and more.