Document Imaging Systems

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The advantage of document imaging systems needs little explanation. From the silly to the serious the flow goes in one direction: from the attack of the killer file cabinets, to death by paper cuts, to budget line item losses of much as $35,000 per year in staffing costs due to lost productivity, paper supplies, and recreated documents. No matter what the size or nature of an organization, the move from a paper-based system to a digital one is considerably less of an ordeal and expense than it might seem and will save you time and money in the long run.

An Overview of Document Imaging Systems

Let's review the basic elements of comprehensive document imaging systems. There are two phases to converting to a digitized document flow: (1) converting old records and (2) planning a new system to seamlessly integrate both. The particular challenge of a forward looking system is growth--both organizational and technological.

Scanning existing documents, whether printed text, artwork, film, manuscript, or a combination, is the first and most obvious element. Advances in technology have made scanning not only more sophisticated, but affordable and fast without sacrificing quality. The UMAX scanner I bought, for example, in 1995 for $2,000 had the same hardware specifications as the HP scanner I use now, cost six times as much, but produced the same quality image (600x1200dpi). In-house equipment is necessary, but not the most efficient approach for the initial conversion of historic archives.

The second element is storage of the newly digitized data, which means a new rubric to allow for changing documents, increasing volume of data, and advancing technology. Metadata indexing is one of the keys to effective document imaging systems. When conceived and plotted with appropriate care, it means easy, simple, and efficient retrieval of information with built in archiving. It also ties directly to the fourth element, data retrieval, and the fifth, data access.

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