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Businessman scanning in a pile of documents

Mari Martin, ECM Event Manager & Scanner Specialist

Document Scanning: Do It Yourself vs. Outsource It

Are you weighing the pros and cons of tackling a document scanning project in-house? Such a venture requires a lot of thought, planning, and consideration to ensure success without disrupting your entire office environment in the process.

Scanning documents requires proper training and quality control to produce suitable electronic images. There is no room for mistakes. Consider this; an error rate of even 0.1% means that one page in every 1,000 could be missing or unreadable.  That one “problem” page could prove to be costly in a lawsuit or a customer service dispute.

How about finding those documents after they are scanned?  Indexing or data entry must be accurate to ensure the record can be located and accessed after scanning.

What Do I Need to Know About Do-It-Yourself Document Scanning?

Here are some things to consider.


This project will require at least one or two full-time employees (one to prepare the files and one to scan.) Then, they will need a workspace large enough for them to scan efficiently.


Carefully choose the personnel for this scanning project. Not everyone is detail-oriented enough to perform the repetitive, tedious task of removing staples and organizing pages. Document preparation for scanning often takes the greatest amount of time. Not everyone recognizes the importance of consistently capturing every piece of information in the file. Of course, every scanned image should be viewed, checked against the original, and approved.  This adds even more time to your project.


Your project will require the use of a scanner fast enough to handle thousands of pages per day.  Now is not time to cut corners by purchasing an inexpensive, 20-30 page per minute scanner.  The odds are high that you will destroy that little scanner in the first month with high volume scanning.  This slower scanner could cost you even more money with all the extra hours your staff will need to complete the project.

The scanner should also have built-in, double feed detection features to guard against more than one page feeding through at a time, resulting in lost information.  Lost information can be costly.

Scanners & Document Sizes

What about those different document sizes that need scanning? Production scanners will scan as small as a business card up to 11” x 17” in size. Larger drawings and prints require a special wide format scanner to get the job done.  What about those documents that can’t go through a document feeder?  You may need more than one type of scanner to get the job done.

Can I use my copier for scanning?

For a project this large, your copier is not your best option.

Your copier was not designed for repeatedly scanning large volumes of documents. A document scanner can handle large volumes of a mixed variety of document sizes, thicknesses, and conditions.  A copier cannot.  In addition, you could potentially hold up productivity from the rest of the office staff that uses that same copier to print, copy, fax, or scan.

Outsourcing: A Viable Alternative

While the “do-it-yourself” option may sound a bit overwhelming, there are more efficient ways to convert documents from paper to digital. This will decrease the overall time required to complete the project and greatly reduce the stress on your office staff. One such option is outsourcing the scanning of paper records to an imaging service organization. Here are some of the perks.

  • An imaging service operates under a confidentiality agreement with each of its clients.
  • They have a fleet of vehicles for picking up any size shipment, from just a few boxes to many pallets of boxed or crated documents. They can also send personnel to pack your files and even provide boxes at no charge.
  • In a production scanning environment, a dedicated team efficiently removes all staples and paper clips, positions sticky notes, unfolds, smooths, and aligns all pages.
  • Trained scanner operators using high-speed equipment evaluate every image on the computer screen as each page is scanned. Quality control steps are built into each process to ensure all images are legibly captured and correctly labeled.

The Bottom Line

Outsourcing the scanning of business records to a competent imaging service should be seriously considered when weighing the transition from paper files to digital. The actual cost of outsourced scanning is often significantly less than the expenditure of purchasing adequate equipment and utilizing staff to perform the work in house.

An imaging service specializes in performing the “grunt work” associated with scanning.  They can have all records prepared, scanned, indexed, and uploaded in a fraction of the time it takes if you chose staff to complete the project.

Moving towards a paperless workforce is within reach. With a few easy steps in the backfile scanning process, you can save time, money, space, and headaches.