If your document management system has been used for your papers, what are your options if you’d like to be a little more digital?
A few weeks back, I posted a blog about paper retention and how long to keep tax records and documents. Many people were relieved about how much they could finally let go of. But for those who still wanted to hang onto papers – but didn’t have enough room to store all of them – what were their options? You can go digital.
A Digital Document Management System:
There are two components you’ll need to decide on.
1) What type of storage do you want to use?
2) What type of organization would you like to have within this storage?
Digital Document Management System Storage Options:
*Scan to your computer
You can use scanners like ScanSnap or Neat which provide software that you program to categorize what you scan, and each document becomes searchable – like Google for your computer. You can also use a much less expensive scanner to simply get your document over to your computer, and you’ll save it in a folder and under a file name that you can recall later.
This is what you need to know about scanning: it doesn’t happen magically. I’ve seen a lot of expensive scanners still in their boxes, collecting dust under a desk or on a shelf. Whether you buy a $500 scanner or a $99 scanner, you still need to set aside time to actually scan.
*Store on your computer and/or in the cloud
If you decide to keep your documents on your computer only, definitely be sure to use an automatic back-up program like Carbonite, Mozy, BackBlaze or CrashPlan. In the event that your computer crashes, these back-up plans will have your documents waiting for you so that you can reload them onto your computer when you get it fixed or replaced.
I have a number of clients who insist on using thumb drives (also called flash drives, jump drives or USB drives) and external hard drives for their back-up. Problem: They only back up their computer when they have time or when they remember to do so. Since you don’t know when your computer will act up, you might not manually back up your files in time for a crash. That’s why I advise everyone to have some sort of automated back-up running on their computers.
If you’d like to have your documents accessible from any device that has the internet, you’ll want to look into cloud storage. It’s like having a digital filing cabinet in The Cloud. Other than price and the amount of storage you’ll have, the most important factor that you want to look into is security. I prefer DropBox because of its security levels. I pay a minimal fee for this. There are also options like OneNote and Google Drive. With all three of these platforms, you also have the option of choosing which file folders or individual documents you’d like to share with others.
Digital Document Management System Organization Options:
The key here is that there is no one perfect way of organizing your digital files. Whether we’re talking photos or tax records or your end-of-year holiday letters, the “perfect way” of setting up your digital file cabinet is the way that your brain recalls these files.
Whether you store your documents on your computer only or in the cloud, you have two ways of searching for docs: by file name or by key words in the document itself (like a Google search). If you’d like, you can set up file folders on your computer the same way you set up physical file folders – by category or by year. For example, you can drop your tax stuff into your tax file folder and subdivide by year. You can keep scans of your old refi docs in a house file folder and subdivide by year of refi. You can store your photos chronologically or by holiday or by event or by family member. You aren’t limited to only this type of organization – set it up for how your brain thinks. Your computer file folders can mimic your paper file system.
If you’ve been digital for quite some time, all of the above may seem pretty basic to you. This post is written for those who are hesitant about the transition to a digital document management system. If you’ve been comfortable with digital for quite some time, feel free to post your favorite tools below.
For more info about a document management system – and other productivity tools and tips – from time management keynote speaker Helene Segura, click here.