If you're running a small business - and there are nearly 30 million of you in the U.S. alone - then you know the old adage rings true: Time really is money. For many small companies, trying to maximize time for current projects and new initiatives is now dominated by conversations about technology: The cloud, for example, provides an excellent starting point for businesses looking to offload highly technical responsibilities and focus on core offerings.
Hand-in-hand with these cloud technologies, however, is the concept of digital storage: Scanning, converting and preserving work in electronic format to increase overall efficiency.
Here's what it means for your bottom line:
Cull the clutter
As the first step in any digital storage process, conversion focuses on making sure that all of your documents — everything from employee records to accounting information to transaction records — are properly cataloged and digitized.
There are two parts to conversion: Preparation and scanning. During the preparation phase, the physical properties of your documents are assessed: Staples are removed, pages are separated and a unified standard is created. Then, all documents are scanned and digitized, producing a set of electronic images, which follow the same format and live in the same location.
The big benefit for your company? Space. No more overloaded filing cabinets, no more pages stuffed into desk drawers or shoved into boxes and stored in back rooms. Digital conversion gets everything out into the light and lets you cull unnecessary paperwork, freeing office space for other activities.
Immortalise your information
Once scanned, your documents are essentially immortal. So long as the digital medium containing your information is never compromised, there's no way to “lose” paperwork or misplace an invoice. You have several options when it comes to preservation. It's possible to build an in-house storage solution like the UK National Archives — which is in the process of digitizing more than 11 million records dating back 1000 years — but, not surprisingly, this can be an expensive and somewhat daunting prospect for a small business. So, a better option is leveraging the cloud, either through public-storage providers or a cloud-based solution offered by digital-document specialists. Choosing the cloud means your data is stored in multiple, redundant locations and can be accessed on demand, forever, but anyone who you allow to access it.
Compliance is a piece of cake
Another big time saver for your small business? Compliance. Businesses of a larger scale, such as Las Vegas city casinos as an example, have come to depend on digital-document storage as a way to ensure Title 31 compliance, eFile IRS documents or audit current money-handling procedures.
Your small business may not deal with the same transaction volume as a Vegas casino, but essentially you face many of the same compliance challenges, depending on requirements in your country. And if regulatory bodies ask for proof of compliance, digital storage means you can show not only the document in question but its history — who accessed it, when and why.
Streamline document search
This leads to the biggest time benefit for small businesses: Simple searching. Even well-filed physical documents take time to search, read and then relocate. Digital alternatives, meanwhile, come with the advantage of an easy-to-use search portal. Minutes spent searching for physical documents become seconds in digital format, giving you more time for mission-critical tasks.
Digital-document storage is no longer for big enterprises alone — small businesses can save time and improve operational efficiency by leveraging the benefits of conversion, preservation, compliance and search. Time is money — go digital and put more on the clock!
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.