IPS Blog

Backfile conversion: Do the document scanning yourself, or outsource to an expert?

Feb 3, 2012 11:48:42 AM

Any business wishing to convert its legacy backfile to a digital archive must first make a few fundamental decisions. Do they want to try to do it in-house, or hire outside experts? And if they choose to outsource, where do they want the work performed?

All are key factors. And all play huge roles in the amount of money, time and effort the conversion entails.

In-house vs. outsourcing

First, a company needs to decide whether to attempt a backfile conversion of scanning legacy paper files by itself, or to bring in an outsourced vendor.

For many businesses, the initial lure of attempting an in-house document scanning is strong. Sensitive documents need never leave the building, and vendors of document scanners and OCR software promise cheap, fast, easy imaging. But once the project starts, the drawbacks quickly become apparent. High speed document scanning equipment proves expensive. Man hours pile up as workers are forced outside their areas of expertise and into the imaging space. Document scanners jam, break and fail to reach their promised page-per-minute speeds, creating bottlenecks and backlogs. Data inaccuracies become rampant. And even the most simplistic manual indexing is found to be time-consuming, tedious and prone to errors.

Outsourcing to a document imaging expert may appear to cost more up front, but inevitably results in a superior backfile conversion experience – and often a lower total cost. Leading vendors offer completely secure processes, customized solutions, fast turnarounds and complex taxonomies and indexing. The repository of digital images they create are immediately useable and useful, and the top document imaging services provide near-Six Sigma data accuracy. Best of all, knowledge workers are freed up to do what they do best – using their new business tools to improve upon existing revenue streams, and generate new ones.

On-site, off-site and hybrid approaches

Top outsourced document imaging services are capable of working in their own facilities, completing projects in the client’s space or using a combination of the two.

These approaches are referred to as “off-site” (in the vendor’s facility), “on-site” (in the client’s facility) and “hybrid” (a combination). Each carries its own set of benefits.

Off-site document imaging

The majority of outsourced backfile conversions are performed off-site, in the vendor’s dedicated imaging facility. Documents – often numbering in the millions of pages, in hundreds of boxes – are sorted, packed and shipped by the client. The vendor then completes document scanning and indexing, and either stores or returns the document archive.

Though top document imaging services can maintain their quality controls and custody chains anywhere, it is easiest at their own secure facilities.

Some businesses are resistant to sending potentially sensitive documents to a third-party facility. Top document imaging vendors address confidentiality concerns by using trained couriers, requiring background checks and confidentiality agreements from their employees and utilizing proper business processes and controls.

Some businesses are concerned about access to documents in off-site imaging facilities. By utilizing state-of-the-art document tracking technologies, top outsourced vendors off near real-time access to any document with just an email or phone call.

On-site document imaging

Though top imaging vendors have largely alleviated privacy and confidentiality concerns, some companies prefer to have their backfile conversion performed in their own facility – on-site. These jobs entail the vendor bringing document scanning equipment and staff to the client’s facility, and performing the same backfile conversion there. Though they are offered by most outsourced document imaging vendors, only the most experienced can perform them under some circumstances.

Due to their complex nature, these conversions typically cost between 15 and 50 percent more than their off-site counterparts.

In addition to price, on-site conversions carry with them a number of other challenges. The client must offer a properly sized, climate-controlled facility for the imaging company to use. The electrical needs of the document imaging equipment itself must be met. And furniture and reliable, secure internet access must be provided.

Hybrid imaging

The hybrid approach offers a middle ground between on-site and off-site document imaging conversions. Often, companies will hire the outsourced vendor to properly sort, manifest and box documents in the on-site facility, before shipping them to the document imaging center. This maintains an absolutely secure chain of custody from storage to imaging and archiving.