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Should You Outsource Your Scanning?

Does your organization have a huge stockpile of legacy paper documents? Are rows of metal file cabinets eating up expensive and valuable floor space in your office? Do you end up searching for a paper document that you know should be in one of those dozens of file cabinets, but it was mis-filed or lost? Or if you are able to find that particular document, did it take an inordinate amount of time that you could have spent doing more important work?

The concept of digitizing paper documents is a winning idea for most organizations. When it comes to implementing a backfile (backfile scanning is the process of scanning existing legacy documents) scanning project, the number one question that companies have is “Who is going to actually do the work?”. Well, there are two general directions that can be taken. The first direction would be to contract to an outside company with experience in backfile scanning projects. The second option would be to do the project in-house using your own staff, resources, and assets.

Let’s review the advantages of outsourcing your backfile scanning project:

Should We Contract with a Scanning Company for Our Backfile Project?

  1. Cost

Working with a reputable and trusted document scanning company is always a good decision. An experienced provider of document scanning services will be able to provide an accurate estimate of project costs based on how many scans you have, the condition of the original documents, and the final disposition of the scanned images. Unless the scope of the project changes, you will know what the project will cost, and there won’t be any surprises.

  1. Equipment

One of the chief risks of doing a legacy document scanning project is that you will spend a bunch of money on a high-speed production scanner, use it daily for a few months, then have the scanner sit idle once your project is completed.

A professional document scanning company will already have this kind of equipment, so you don’t have to commit to a contract or suck up valuable cash to acquire the appropriate scanning gear.


  1. Experience

Think about how efficient a backfile scanning company is going to be with your project. They probably have multiple experienced production scanner operators who can coax the maximum efficiency out of their equipment.

Conversely, if you take the project in-house you will have to train someone to do the job, and they will likely make mistakes and go very slowly at first. And once the project is complete, what do you have for this person to do? There is always the chance that they will take this new, in-demand skill somewhere else for more pay.

  1. Space

A large backfile scanning project requires a lot of space. It requires physical space for the preparation, organization, and processing of the paper documents. A large document scanning project also requires a lot of digital storage space on a server or workstation. Depending on the size of the document collection to be scanned, the digital storage required could be many GB of information.

  1. Knowledge

A successful document scanning company will be able to advise you of the best ways to organize your digital document collection(s) once they are scanned.

  1. Redundancy

A reputable scanning company will have plenty of redundancy and back-up if they have a hardware failure during your scanning project. Imagine how expensive it would be for your business to have an expensive back-up production scanner sitting around waiting for the primary scanner to break down?

  1. Which Document Management System is Best for Me?

An experienced scanning company will have experience with a variety of document management systems, and should be positioned to recommend a solution that will best fit your needs.

Now let’s cover the benefits of keeping your scanning project in-house.

Should We Do Our Backfile Scanning Project Ourselves?

  1. Cost

If your project is exceptionally large and/or complex, you may save some money by doing it yourself. Be aware that using a less experienced operator will cost you some time, and possibly mistakes versus outsourcing and having a skilled, experienced operator.

There are likely some additional expenses that would lead you to decide to outsource the project. There is the cost of acquiring the hardware and software, which you may not be able to fully justify.

  1. Control

If you decide to do the scanning project yourself, you will have 100% control over the project, how it gets done, when it gets done, and who does it. You will also have to decide on which scanner you will use, and which software will be the best choice for your particular requirements. Making that decision yourself may not be easy.

  1. Institutional Knowledge

This advantage is closely related to control. No one knows your organization like the people who work inside if it. Perhaps time is the most critical parameter, so you would dedicate multiple people and multiple scanners to get the job done sooner. Or maybe accuracy is the most important thing for this project. You could set up multiple inspection and approval steps in your scanning workflow to make sure that the scans are readable by humans, and if necessary, you can have a human inspection step to verify and validate the accuracy of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) translations.

  1. Future Asset Need

If you take the project in-house, you will need to acquire a scanner and software. If this will be a strictly backfile scanning project, you may purchase costly hardware and software that may not be needed again. In that instance, outsourcing might be a better choice. However, if you anticipate future use or ongoing regular use of the scanner and scanning software, then acquiring the equipment and doing it yourself might be a better plan.

At the end of the day, there are important advantages and disadvantages to each approach (outsource versus in-house) to backfile scanning. You just have to decide which approach will work best for your company.

If you have any questions about a possible document scanning project, whether it’s a backfile scanning project to digitize legacy paper documents, or a “day-forward” project that involves designing an efficient ongoing workflow, please click here to contact an experienced document scanning professional. We’re happy to support any document scanning needs that you may have.

September 6th, 2021