The quest to go paperless (Part 1): choosing your hardware

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The quest to go paperless (Part 1): choosing your hardware

Is it possible to get rid of all the paper on your desk, or at least reduce the amount you need to store? The short answer is yes.

When I look around my office and desk I see lots of paper. I still like to keep a manually written to do list each day - usually on the back of a letter or envelope - and there are receipts, letters, statements and other correspondence I receive.

Is it possible to get rid of all the paper? Or at least reduce the amount I need to store for future reference.

The short answer is yes. But it does require putting some systems and processes in place.

Over the next few days we're going to go through our journey towards a paperless office. We have to admit that we're not there yet and that the solutions we've found aren’t perfect. But they are close and we're finding that mundane tasks like filing and storage of papers are far less time consuming. Also, there's a lot less clutter in the office.

Today, we're going to start with the hardware.

Scanners

We did a lot of research into scanners. We already have a colour multi-function printer/scanner and a larger multifunction with a sheet-feeder for scanning. The trouble with both of those is that they only scan one side of the paper at a time. Also, they are slow. It can take several minutes to scan a multi-page, double-sided document.

So, my list of mandatory features for a scanner were fast, automatic double-sided scanning and small so I don't replace paper clutter with a big piece of hardware.

There are several small scanners on the market. But after asking around some of my technologically adroit friends and doing a bunch of research I settled on a Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i. It's very compact - just 10cm by 29cm so it takes up very little desk space. I can leave it by my computer all the time.

That's important as I can scan incoming documents without having to leave my workspace. It's sounds minor but it really helps me keep on top of things as scanning takes little extra effort - I don’t even have to leave my seat.

I can also take it with me when travelling as it can be powered from my laptop's USB ports. It needs two ports for this - one for transmitting data and another for power.

The ScanSnap 1300i isn’t cheap - at $400 it costs more than a lot of printers so it might be tempting to just try going with a multi-function printer/scanner. But after several weeks, I'm not regretting the purchase. My filing tray is empty. Each day, I deal with the incoming papers and they're scanned and electronically filed in just a few minutes.

Multipage documents are easily handled. For example, I just scanned a bank statement comprising of four double-sided pages. It was scanned and filed in about 90 seconds. It takes me longer than that to punch holes and put the document in a folder. In fact, it takes less time to scan, file and shred a document than it does to put in into a folder as I used to do.

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