Get your paperwork under control with easy-to-access digital files.

If you are anything like me, you hate clutter. The day-to-day paperwork that comes with running a busy business means that you can sometimes feel like you are being buried in paper. On top of that, I travel a lot for work and I like having all of my files on hand, all the time. Those two things were the driving force behind me digitizing all of my work files.

For years, I have worked strictly with digital files. I used to work from home and I had minimal storage space, so I started scanning contracts, service agreements, tax paperwork, etc., to save on my computer. The bonus to these scanned files meant that if someone had a question on a weekend or while I was away on vacation, I had access to everything right on my laptop. I also felt that digital scans allowed me to find things easier. I am very specific with my labels and some scans are searchable, so finding something takes a couple of seconds versus hours searching through piles of paper files.

This past winter, the company as a whole decided to make all of our contracts and trucking files digital as well. This was a very lengthy process, but during the winter we had the free time and the staff so we slowly chipped away at it. We have really loved the results.

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The first step is to buy a good scanner. For years, I used the scanner on my desktop printer. It worked fine, but scanning one page at a time will slowly drive you insane. To speed up the process and to get better quality scans, I bought a couple of Neat scanners. This scanner costs around $300 and is worth every penny.

The Neat scanner is really fast, so we were able to scan all of our contract files in a matter of days. Unless something had an original signature on it, we shredded everything after scanning. We did the same with our trucking files, our permits and purchase orders. Everything was labeled and dated, making our files easy to search.

Once everything is scanned, you have to decide how to store your files. I use a combination of storage solutions. Most of my files are stored on my laptop. Once a week, I back up my laptop using an external hard drive. I have lost many a computer by having one too many beverages on my desk, so backing up is really important. 

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On top of that, we store our company files on an internal server that is then backed up to the cloud. There are tons of cloud options out there right now, but we use Carbonite. We also use Google Drive as a way to share files among our branches. It is free and it allows multiple people to access it. Other online options would be Amazon’s Cloud Services or Dropbox. Many of these options are free up to a point, so this doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

If the idea of the cloud scares you a bit, head over to an office supply store and buy an external drive. For less than $100 you can store thousands and thousands of files on something that will fit in your pocket. 

Spending the time scanning all of your files can seem like a waste of time. But think of how much easier it would be to do your job if you didn’t have to get up all day long to find this file or that piece of paper. Having everything located in one place streamlines your work and makes you more efficient. So happy scanning everyone!

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About the Author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.

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