Scanning is a popular tool in most businesses. There are several ways to attack the need for scanning and each has its purpose and benefits. One of the methods which often gets over looked in the office due to the preponderance of network scanning tools around is desktop document scanning.
Desktop document scanning uses a dedicated desktop connected scanner which has the ability to pass documents (usually letter sized) through a small feeder for capture. They range in size from small single sheet units like the Fujitsu ScanSnap or Visioneer Road Warrior up to fairly robust multiple sheet, duplex devices which can handle larger documents and stream them into a file. Models from most major vendors such as Fujitsu, Kodak, Xerox and Visioneer can handle a good daily volume of materials.
There are models which will do automatic double sided scanning, capture colour and process images a good speeds. Like anything in technology the more feature packed the device the higher the cost to acquire will be but solid scanners can be acquired for well under $500.
What do you use the scanner for?
Desktop scanners are most useful for those workers who need to be able to file many documents as part of their daily workflows or who need to be able to transmit paper documents by email regularly. I personally have used a small Fujitsu ScanSnap for some time and have found it a really useful tool. Like everything it has its limitations but I have learned to work around them. It only has a single sheet feeder and it only outputs pdf files. A larger sheet feeder would be nice and being able to create jpegs would be nice. Of course its small size, ability to scan small documents like business cards and power by USB really make it a convenient tool.
Software bundle is key.
Everyone of the desktop focused scanners will come with a bundle of software. While often we ignor this component of a technology purchase it is an key part of a scanner purchase. The software your scanner has available can go a long way to making your tool valuable. Not having to go out and buy specialized additional software can really help save dollars and add to your return on investment. My unit included a special version of ABBYY Fine Reader a leading OCR package, the ScanSnap Manager which controls how the device scans and then manages the scans and Card Minder which processes and catalogues business card files and other materials.
Take a bit of time to check out what is bundled with the scanners you are considering and it will be time well spent.
Desktop vs network or production
Desktop scanners are all about convenience, relatively low cost and potentially enhanced productivity. I have seen insurance brokers where a desktop shared between two agents and right at their desks permitted the filing of paper work processed in dealing with a policy immediately as the agent finished off a telephone call. No need to get up and leave their desks, no need for someone to clear and out basket and instantaneous upload to the electronic filing system. This kind of high activity transactional processing can make a desktop scanner a critical tool.
Network scanners by their nature are designed to process files over the office network and push the output to a secondary location. They are most commonly found on multifunction printers and can offer substantial processing capability. They provide access to multiple people in the office and this can be one of their most powerful reasons for use. There are many enhancing software systems which can provide them with sophisticated workflow capabilities but there is a cost associated with setting them up for efficiency and for maximum benefit. They don't substitute well for a dedicated desktop scanner but are great when many people need occasional access or when large files are being processed.
Production scanners are a class unto themselves and usually are in place to support a high volume repetitive scanning application. Enjoying many advanced paper handling capabilities and the ability to chew through tons of paper per day a true production scanner is a very specialized device and it takes top knowledge and understanding of the application to make a good choice. This is definitely a time to consult with someone who knows this business and who can advise you on suitable devices.
Desktop scanners do not meet every need but they offer a potential that should not be ignored. Whether your need is to capture in a client's office (think financial audit), ability to take paper applications remotely and store them (think a registration desk) or simply to be able to clean your desk each time you have to deal with a paper transaction, they are certainly a tool to be considered. A small investment to save time, increase productivity and reduce clutter.