Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creating the Paperless Office

I have always had the desire to eliminate paper in my business.  I was tired of printing and filing, then the arduous task of trying to find those documents when I needed them.  I was always afraid of what would happen if we had a fire, hurricane, or some type of devastation that could completely wipe out our records.   So, one day a few years ago I decided to go for it and have never looked back.  Today, all of the paper has been converted to images that not only reside on a computer (laptop) but is also backed up every day.  So, I can easily take my business wherever I go and have the comfort to know that all of these important documents are backed up everyday... go ahead and try that with all of your file cabinets.

Instead of investing in expensive document management / imaging software, we decided to use Adobe PDF's.  It pays to purchase Adobe Acrobat Professional to help make any adjustments you may need.  The other program we also use is PDFill.  This can be purchased for about $20 on the www.pdfill.com website.  This program allows us to edit any pdf - for filling out forms or making comments on documents.  Finally, we also subscribe to MyFax.com which we use to send and receive faxes.  This is a very important subscription since it converts any inbound fax to a pdf - so, you do not have to convert it.

Most of the documents that fill up those file cabinets include: our invoices and vendors bills, so these were the first ones we focused on.  For our invoices, instead of printing them (we use Quickbooks), we simply printed them as a PDF and stored them in each customers folder.  We saved them using the invoice number.  Then, when we wanted to send them out, we simply used Email - eliminating printing, stuffing, and stamps.  When it came to our vendor invoices, we asked our vendors to fax them to us.  Since our faxes come in as PDF's, all we then had to do was save them in a vendor file with the associated invoice number.  For those vendors that could not fax the invoices to us, we simply put them into our scanner (with a sheet feeder), and then save the group of invoices in the vendor files.  Anything else that came in hard copy including contracts are scanned and saved.

At first, this might seem like a very laborious task.  However, we have found it to be much easier than printing and filing.  Anyone can instantly access the files with shared access over our network, without having to leave their desk.  With the proper configuration, this could be done remotely as well. 

After having experienced a major hurricane which completely destroyed our office, I now have the comfort of knowing that all of our company documents are backed up to a site on the Internet. 

2 comments:

  1. Me and my company are so looking forward to going paperless the coming week, finally we will be able to do automatic bill payment and can save on paper and money.

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    Replies
    1. Just make sure you have a few reliable backups... that's critical. I use a little known software that Microsoft provides for free - Robocopy, and copy from one computer that has most of the data to another one - so, I have a complete duplicate of all the data, on another computer. This all happens automatically - at night. Then I backup to Mozy.com ... which is an on-line backup - on the cloud.

      All of this backing up happens in the wee hours of the night - you can't have enough backups.

      I recently took at 9 week cross country trip - using a few laptops. Everything was backed up daily from one laptop to the other... then to Mozy. We never missed a beat - didn't even have a printer. If we needed something scanned, we asked the people to fax it to us - which resulted in a pdf, that we just filed away.

      It can be a little scary having everything electronic... so, protect your information and back it up frequently - on different systems... you'll sleep better at night.

      Neal

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