When computers first began to be sold to small businesses, part of the sales pitch was that they would lead to the creation of the paperless office, saving space and making admin tasks much easier. Of course, that didn’t happen, and while computers are certainly useful there are many good arguments for continuing to use paper. It’s a mistake to think that a business can be run without paper. What matters is having a good grasp of what’s most appropriate for each time of document.
Advantages of paper
Although more and more forms are now available in electronic versions, many still are not and others have to be printed out before they can be filled in, so every business needs some facility for storing paper records. When it comes to important contracts such as employee work agreements, it’s really the only option, as handwritten signatures still carry more weight than electronic ones. It’s also wise to keep paper copies of things like bank statements.
Paper documents can be much easier to go over with clients than files on a computer screen, and many business people still appreciate being given dossiers and info packs in paper form. Some organizations still take paper letters more seriously than email, and every business still receives paper communications and needs somewhere to store them.
Unlike digital files, paper files can’t be hacked and are not vulnerable to destruction by viruses. Although theft is a possibility, they are generally more secure. They also have the advantage of being able to be read directly; it’s not necessary to find different pieces of software to access different ones.
Advantages of digital
Well organized digital files are ideal for quick access and it’s easy to work with several at once without creating a mess. They can also be more easily adapted for people with disabilities, buy changing font type or size or by changing the background to green (for dyslexic readers) at the touch of a button, meaning it’s easy for all staff members to access them.
Unlike paper files, digital files are easy to copy. Regular back-ups can be made and stored in a fire safe, making it easier to recover if something goes wrong.
Combining paper and digital
With these factors in mind, it’s clear that most businesses can benefit from keeping some of their files in a digital format and some on paper, but how can a system like this be managed efficiently? One answer is to look to another digital option—mapping paper document storage. This means that if several different storage areas are in use, such as filing cabinets for general records and bankers’ boxes for documents that need to be stored securely, it only takes a moment to check where a particular document can be found. This also makes it easy to check if a document is filed on paper somewhere or hidden in the computer system, so it’s especially useful as back-up when files are being updated.
A modern business needs to be ready for all eventualities and equipped to deal with all the different materials that come its way.