Advice scanning and storing a large amount of documents electronically

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Kenzembo1, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Kenzembo1 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2008
    Location:
    Youngstown, OH
    #1
    Greetings!

    I started this thread to gather advice regarding storing a large amount of (legal) documents electronically. The firm that I work for currently maintains a large amount of client files (some dating as far back as the late 70's) in dated alphabetically-labeled boxes in a basement. As you can imagine, this system is sloppy (at best), and files are often lost when they are filed incorrectly. This obviously reflects poorly on the firm and can lead some clients to believe we're incompetent. Also, searching for a file for an extended period of time is counter-productive and takes away time that can be spent on other tasks.

    As a member of this community, I'm a Mac user and have been a Mac user for many years now, however, I possess only very novice technical skills and have no idea what the solution is or how to implement it. Also, I'm just a clerk (bottom of the food chain) so when I relay this information to the office manager and senior partners, their first question is inevitably going to be cost, so affordability is key. I understand something of this nature is inherently costly, however, I'd like to keep that cost to a minimum- it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work and be reliable for everyday use.

    With that said, these are the questions I'd like to propose:

    1.) What kind of solution do you suggest?
    -Is it wise to invest in a server of sorts or should it be strictly cloud-based?
    -What's the difference: cost, ease of implementation, maintainance, reliability between options?

    2.) What's the best way to implement it?
    -Scanning thousands of files seems very time-consuming but I understand it's a necessary part of the process; what's the fastest/easiest and most cost-effective method?
    -Is this something a novice can do, or would it be wise to hire a technician/consultant?

    3.) What are the long-term costs associated with installing and implementing a database storage system of this kind?
    -Is it easily transportable if we relocate?
    -Can storage be easily expanded to keep up with additional files?

    These are my cheif concerns at the moment. I know I posed a lot of questions. If you can't answer each one individually, I'm hoping you can provide me with at least some advice and direction.

    I should also mention that we use a system called "Paradox", which looks a lot like an Excel spreadsheet and lists records with client information and the subject of their claim. Without this (simple) program, it would be nearly impossible to find anything that's not recent or newly (re)opened. If a system such as this one can be maintained in order to retrieve and print files (in PDF format, etc.) from the cloud or dedicated server that would be ideal.

    Thanks! :)
     
  2. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Location:
    On tenterhooks
    #2
    No lawyer should ever use a cloud-based system, IMO. Security issues.

    Others can speak to the server side.

    Our local Land Registry office went through this process about 5 years ago.

    They used professionals, who knew what there were doing.

    I have used their ROSCO user interface system a few times for searching titles, and it works well. Used it this week, and they had made it more User-friendly, and I am an amateur, neither legal nor real estate.

    These are the problems facing any endeavor requiring flawless record-keeping. Usually the bare minimum is have several levels of back-up, both on-site for crashes etc, and off-site for serious 'disasters'.

    Transport depends on data size, and storage is just a technical consideration.
     
  3. r1ch4rd, Sep 14, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011

    r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a

    r1ch4rd

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    #3
    There are way too many considerations to advise you too specifically, so just some thoughts that enter my mind, not in any particular order...

    If you have a really large backlog, this is something you are probably going to want to outsource. It will just tie up too much time for existing staff and will require the purchase of specialist equipment (scanners) if you want to do it quickly. For ongoing archiving of documents you may be able to get away with a regular office scanner with an automatic document feed - how much mail do you get each day?

    You will need some sort of document management system to deal with the newly scanned documents and ideally want to link this in to "Paradox". You wouldn't be getting the most out of the system by having completely separate components. If this isn't achievable you may need to look for a completely new suite of software packages.

    You need to understand what your key business requirements for the system are, what are the limitations (do you have any ISO certifications which relate to handling client data for instance? are there legal requirements for how long you keep the hard copies) and what do you want to achieve long term? Do you see this as part of a larger improvement activity?

    If you want any automation, you may wish to consider using a barcode system (or similar) which can identify newly scanned post and automatically link it to the corresponding records.

    Will this require changes to your business processes? Do you need to drive other activities after receiving a mail. If you take away the physical paper, how do you notify somebody that they have a letter?

    How will you achieve buy in from all of the areas of the business? Are you going to have some "old school" members of staff who will only deal with real pieces of paper? You will also need to train all users.

    Do you have the IT infrastructure to manage a system like this? You are going to be reliant on this data and so need robust backup procedures, 100% uptime during office hours etc. The security of this data is also going to be a concern.

    Depressingly, you may find that it is cheaper to keep paying admin staff that to hire new IT staff and pay software licenses, consultancy fees etc. I suspect that your managers don't see as much value in the time of staff who are not "fee-earning" which also doesn't help.

    EDIT: See here -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document_management_system
     

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