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The long-predicted disappearance of paper documents has yet to take place. It’s difficult to give up a centuries-old habit, and many businesses, even those that have eagerly adopted digital document technology, still feel the need for a solid piece of paper to record transactions.

But there’s a cost associated with paper in the workplace. PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates the cost of finding a single lost document is $122. Further, they estimate that a business loses 7.5% of the 10,000 or so documents it works with, on average. That’s 750 lost documents, or $91,500. What could your business do with an extra $91,500?

Before you answer that question, PWC has another number for the equation: 20%. Employees tasked with managing paper documents in paper-dependent businesses spend 20% of their time, the equivalent of one day each week, filing and retrieving documents. That’s one day each week that is lost to other tasks – tasks which may have revenue potential.

In addition, consider the extra real estate costs involved in storing all those documents (the ones that aren’t lost). Unless your document storage is condensed in a space-saving high density storage system, your business is paying for non-productive office space to house traditional filing cabinets.

When you look at the cumulative costs of storing and retrieving paper documents vs. the cost of scanned documents, the advantage of digital document storage is quite clear. Retrieval of electronic records takes seconds rather than minutes. Thousands of documents fit onto a drive the size of a credit card. Speed and size work in your favor, reducing paper document costs and improving productivity. Even if you have to retain paper copies of your scanned documents, the physical storage for scanned media takes up minimal additional space. And if you need to produce a paper document, just press Print.

Without question, paper as a medium still has its own unique value, and there will be occasions when there’s no substitute for a paper document. A scan of your business’s first dollar, for example, can’t compare to the real thing framed on your wall. But given the cost advantage of electronic records, there’s a better place for paper documents, and for most of them, that place is in the scanner.


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