A local educational institution has a major department which is facing a move to a new building in the first quarter of 2015. One of the big potential costs for them is the moving cost for a large paper filing system which they have to keep for an extended time. Due to the nature of the records involved there is little potential to reduce the quantity of the records as their retention period is almost unlimited.
As a way to prepare for the move the department decided to undertake a project to scan and digitize their records prior to the move and thereby eliminate the need to physically move the records. Once the scanned files are proofed the paper records will be securely shredded and destroyed in advance of the actual deparment's move.
How they did it.
The first step was to rent a quality Kodak production scanner from a local vendor. This device had the ability to capture the various records (a test file was done prior to committing on the rental) and produce high quality archival copies of the files. Format chosen for the output was pdf (Portable Document Format) which is a common and easily opened almost universal file format.
The next step was to hire a student intern from the educational institution's student body and to train the intern on the scanner operation and the formats for naming the files.
The decision was made to do a large batch file format with individual records named simply by the folder name from the record storage. This permitted the high speed, large feeder capacity (500 pages) of the scanner to be optimized easing the throughput.
Over a few months the scanning work was done with the output files stored onto external drives as well as a central hard drive on the network system. This created a redundant copy of each file for security purposes.
Files were proofed in batches to ensure that the scanning created legible and usable files.
Once the record scanning was able to be completed the rental scanner was returned to the vendor thus avoiding any capital cost issues for the educational institution.
Further steps anticipated
The initial stages of the project have been completed and the electronic files are ready for moving along with other IT related systems come the move date.
At the present time the files are held in a simple Windows file structure although the department knows that this is not an optimized way to store the files for future access. In the future they are anticipating contracting for a cloud based file storage which will permit them to more readily index the files with searchable data. This will facilitate easier retrieval over time.
Depending upon the cloud storage solution they choose there are automated tools available which can be used to map the naming conventions they developed for the files created into an indexed data structure. This means the refiling from the simple Windows file folder system into a structured document management system can be largely computer based with less human input needed.
Shred before the move
The ultimate goal of this project was to purge and shred their paper filing system prior to making the physical move to new offices. This provides several advantages for them.
Obviously the large amount of paper files are not having to be moved which saves time and money.
Space utilization for filing in the new site can be reduced since this large archive of files is now stored electronically.
Moving the files is more secure since they now have redundant copies of the material and the potential for loss or destruction during the move process will be less.
Getting up to speed on the filing process prior to the move means that they do not have a learning curve once into the new offices.
Several factors played into making this a successful venture. They included the access to a vendor with the right equipment and knowledge to be able to facilitate their needs, the ability to use trainable, cost effective intern labour for the process and a willingness to work incrementally as they were able to do the work. By using available resources they avoided large per page scanning costs often associated with large file conversions of this nature.
By determining that they could be successful even without going immediately to a full blown document management solution which would have required more research and analysis they were able to start the process far enough in advance of their move to complete the first stage and be rid of the paper before move date. In an ideal world the output of the scanning would have been routed directly into a chosen document management system but the analysis and work needed to make this choice was more than could be accomplished in the time available.
The worst case scenario is they have a foldered record of all of the original paper files which can be accesses as needed once they move. Eventually the retrieval process will be enhanced as a more integrated document management solution is chosen but that can wait if necessary.