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Physical Document Storage Vs Digital Document Storage

Rachel Tilley Author: Rachel Tilley   |    On: Monday Jun 24, 2024

In today's fast-paced digital world, the reliance on physical document storage can be a hindrance.  Slowing down productivity with time-consuming searches, while costing the business more than it should when expensive off-site storage facilities are required.

Physical document storage refers to traditional methods of storing documents in their original paper or physical format.  Organising, categorising, and storing documents in physical storage systems such as filing cabinets, shelves, or off-site storage facilities.

As document management experts we will always be advocates for digital document storage, but with 45% of SMBs in 2022 still relying on paper records, there may still be some about moving away from paper document processes.

Despite the benefits of digital document storage, we understand there are still instances where physical copies are required for compliance or historical purposes. We also know that with physical document storage, there isn't a requirement for technical knowledge, nor is there a threat from cyber crime.  Therefore, businesses must carefully assess their document storage needs and strike a balance between physical and digital storage solutions to ensure efficiency and compliance.

Moving Away from Physical Document Storage

There has been a definite shift in recent years from physical document storage towards digital document storage, as organisations realise the limitation of paper and associated manual processes.  Recently, more and more public sector organisations, where paper is used heavily, have approached us about the best ways to remove physical document storage and time-consuming processes.

Physical document storage is gradually becoming outdated in today's digital age as advancements in technology make this possible.  Management also realise employee time no longer needs to be spent on lengthy admin or mundane tasks such as searching for documents, filing and manual data entry.

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The Advantages of Digital Document Storage

When comparing physical document storage to digital document storage, it's clear that digital document storage offers numerous advantages over its traditional counterpart.

1. Easy Access to Documents

Digital document storage via a dedicated document management system enables easy access and quick retrieval of any document.  Documents are stored in a secure and centralised system and tagged with metadata so they can be easily searched for.

Reducing paper use2. Remote Accessibility

Digital documents can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, facilitating remote or hybrid working patterns and better collaboration.

3. Better for the Environment 

Reducing the use of paper by storing documents digitally contributes to environmental conservation efforts.

4. Efficient Organisation

Documents are efficiently organised with minimal effort from users.  The naming conventions for documents are agreed when the system is set up so a document can only be 'saved as' a set name.  For example, a POD can only be saved as POD, not proof of delivery, delivery note, or any other variation or misspelling.

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5. Better Use of Physical Space

Removing physical document storage frees up space - making room for more staff, better facilities or even enabling businesses to downsize their premises!

improving document security6. Better Security

With digital storage, documents can be securely stored in the cloud, making them accessible from anywhere at any time. Additionally, digital document storage reduces the risk of document loss or damage, as digital files can be easily backed up and replicated.

Robust document management systems with high-levels of security will offer protection the best protection from cyber-criminals too.

7. Streamline Processes

Embracing digital document storage streamlines workflow processes, increasing productivity and reducing errors.  The steps involved in a document workflow can be automated by a document management system, enabling each step to be easily managed and more tightly controlled.

8. Reduce Costs

It goes without saying, removing physical document storage and associated manual processes will greatly reduce overheads and can be the start of any digital transformation project.  Paper, printing, postage and storage costs can quickly add up and organisation's are able to make some big savings by reducing them.

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Removing Physical Document Storage 

DocTech customer quotes__ScanningA hospice offering supported-living approached us with a need to digitally archive medical records due to their ever expanding physical document storage. With strict rules around the storage of personal data and medical information, security and retention rules were also high on their priority list.

Medical records need to be kept for eight years and with the amount of documents the hospice had to keep, they were spending more than £1,300 per month on off-site storage. 

That's almost £16,000 per year! 

This cost would have only continued to rise as more new documents were added.  Digitally archiving medical records with DocuWare saved the hospice vital funds.

The hospice also needed to apply retention rules to the digital archive, something that can't be achieved as successfully with physical document storage.  Yes, document boxes can be stored by date, but what if a document is misfiled or missing all together?  There is no way to know for certain without looking through every box.

By digitally archiving medical records and applying retention rules, documents cannot be stored for longer than they are legally required to be.  After eight years, or eight years from when a discharge letter enters the software, the document management system can send a reminder or a task to a member of staff that old documents will be deleted.  This deletion can be approved or rejected as required.

Hospice staff with the right level of permissions can now also find any document, on any patient, with ease thanks to DocuWare's full-text search.  It provides a search of specific text within the document management system.  Full text search really comes into its own when an employee only knows a portion of the data they are looking for, stored alongside a lot of other information.

Overall, the transition from physical document storage not only offers cost savings and better security but also contributes to environmental conservation efforts by reducing the use of paper.  By embracing digital document storage, organisations can optimise their document management processes, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance with retention rules and regulations.

We've help hundreds of clients successfully move away from physical document storage, making thousands of pounds worth of savings while improving document processes for the long-term.  If you'd like a chat about how you can benefit, get in touch and book a time in our diary below.

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Contact us now for more information 0161 647 7040