Every day, you sit at your desk and stare at the rows of file cabinets, and breathe a sigh of relief that you never have to go to those file cabinets and search and retrieve an important document. Pfeww! But what about that stack of paper on your desk? It will eventually find it’s way into the file cabinets, increasing the odds that someday in the future, you actually will have to find and retrieve that elusive document.
There are many other benefits of converting paper to digital, like instant retrieval, elimination of file cabinets, and streamlining your workflow. But researching and finding the best document scanner for you is a daunting task. Where do you even start? We suggest reading down this page and learning about the eight things you will need to know to make an informed scanner decision. We can help you find a scanner that will fit your needs.
Think About Your Requirements Before You Actually Buy
As with most significant purchases, it’s important to consider your needs and requirements before buying a document scanner.
Here are some questions that you should consider:
- How many pages per hour will you need to scan?
- Are there peak periods or short turnaround windows for your scanning?
- How many hours per day do you have available for scanning tasks?
- Are you going to hire a dedicated scanner operator?
- Will you assign someone on your team to do it?
- How will staff be trained to use the scanner(s)?
- Do you need individual scanners for every person?
- Will you be scanning oversized originals?
- Will you be scanning color originals?
- Will you be scanning two-sided originals?
- Do you need to scan at a high resolution?
- Where will these scanned documents be located? On a server, or perhaps in a Document Management System?
- Do you have odd originals like bound books or other bound documents that will not feed through an ADF?
- Do you have PCs or Macs?
- Do you need a scanner that resides on a network by itself?
- How long will you retain your paper originals once they are scanned?
- How will you dispose of your paper originals once they are scanned (assuming you do not need to retain them)?
Understanding your requirements will make the decision-making process easier, and will help prevent making a bad decision.
Don’t Get the Wrong Scanner!
Make sure that you buy a scanner that can complete all the scanning you will need to do in a day in 4-5 hours. The labor savings alone will eventually pay for any difference in cost between a slower unit and one that files through your scanning-intensive projects. A fast, rugged scanner allows your staff to complete their work in less time, which frees up you or your employees to perform other more important tasks.
One of the most confusing yet important things to understand about scanners and scanning is duty cycle. You may have materials from the manufacturer that say the device can handle 5000 scans per day, but chances are that you will not be able to achieve that volume during a normal workday. Daily duty cycles are also frequently overstated. It’s important to keep that in mind when planning your scanner purchase.
Everyone Overstates Their Specs
The specs might say that a scanner can scan 5,000 pages per day. And that may be accurate, but only if you have 12 or more hours to scan every day.
Most of these duty cycles are based on a perfect environment with perfectly flat, clean paper (no staples!). If you will need to run thousands of imperfect papers through your desktop printer, you may want to go with a faster, more durable scanner. Your time is valuable, so you should select a scanner that will minimize scanning time.
Evaluate the Software in Addition to the Hardware
Almost every scanner ships with software that controls the operation of the scanner. Some scanners ship with really great software that helps you achieve higher quality scans faster and in less time. Then some software just barely allows you to power up your scanner .
The software that ships with a scanner should have a minimum functionality that allows an experienced scanner operator to be reasonably productive over the course of a scanning project.
Don’t Tie Up Your Busy Copier/MFP With Long Scanning Projects!
Customers tell us “I don’t need a scanner because I just use our copier.” If your scanning project only has a handful of pages, and no one cares what your scans actually look like, you might be able to get away with using your copier. But if you have a large and complex scanning project that will stretch out over weeks or months, or you cannot afford to tie up an office copier or MFP, you will need a dedicated scanner.
Dedicated scanners also tend to provide better scanned image quality. Plus, the software that comes with a scanner will offer several different automated scan quality workflows that can all be applied during the time of the scan
If you are scanning sensitive or secure documents, using a desktop scanner will also provide more security than a departmental copier will.
Yes, You Should Have a Service Contract on Your Scanner
Most smaller scanners will come with a standard one or two year warranty. But be sure to read the fine print about how to take advantage of the warranty when the time comes. Many will require you to ship the scanner back at your expense for warranty repairs.
When you are developing your budget for a stand-alone scanners be sure to add some cash for a service contract. These service contracts typically have a 5-year term, and when they expire, they go month-to-month. Be aware that most service contracts also have annual rate escalation clauses to cover the expense of servicing an aging device.
Additionally, know who will service your scanner and the process for having it serviced. Research the following:
- Do you have to ship the scanner back to the seller or to a service center for replacement?
- Is the ship back fee at your expense?
- Will a technician come to your location to make repairs?
- Is the technician from the scanner dealer or manufacturer?
- What is the availability for parts (the global pandemic has hammered supply chains)?
- For critical scanning projects with tight delivery schedules or challenging SLA’s, should you have your own back-up scanning unit to ensure you are ALWAYS up and running?
Make sure that you ask about cleaning/maintenance kits so that your scanner can have maximum uptime. Many scanners include kits for the replacement of transport roller wheels, and other wear items.
Should I Contract Out My Scanning Project?
Do you have a large number of paper originals that would require you to buy a scanner and hire a scanner operator? Would your project take weeks or months to complete? Or do you have a large number of new documents to scan in just about every day for the foreseeable future?
If you have a large backlog of documents that you want to convert, but don’t expect to have large scanning volumes in the future, perhaps you should consider outsourcing your scanning project. There are a number of companies with vast experience in tackling these “backfile” scanning projects.
Once your backlog of paper is converted to digital, then perhaps all you need are a couple of small desktop scanners, or you can use the scanner on top of your copier or MFP.
Which Company Should I Use to Scan My Backfiles?
There are a number of companies who specialize in these types of projects. You should call your local copier dealer, or whomever currently provides your copiers and other office technology. If they can’t do the scanning project themselves, chances are they will know someone who does.
If you take the time to answer these questions thoughtfully and honestly, you should be able to make an informed decision about how to go about addressing your document scanning and backfile scanning requirements.
If you have any questions about scanning, please feel free to make an appointment to discuss your project or your scanner purchase with one of our document imaging experts by clicking here.