Thursday, January 18, 2007

Filing: Paper Files vs. Digital Files

The GTD (Getting Things Done) Yahoo! Group is discussing reference files; does it make sense to keep these in paper form, or electronic form?

Kalnel (quoted by permission) makes these points about the advantages of going digital:
"Having a digital backup is hardly the only reason why you'd want to digitize paper documents. It also gives you:
- flexibility to work and access information remotely (or carry it with you)
- ability to find information and documents instantly
- security against document destruction and loss
- reduced storage needs and costs
- less clutter
- greater ability to share information quickly"

Other people feel that it's not worth the effort to create digital versions of their paper documents.

And questions about having business-related documents readily available from anywhere can easily morph into discussions of why you'd need that accessibility - and whether or not it's a good idea to be able to work from anywhere, at any time.

Another consideration would be any legal requirements for paper documents. The IRS accepts appropriate electronic records, according to an April 2006 article in The Christian Science Monitor - but check with your lawyer and/or accountant if you have any concerns.

If you want to go digital, that probably means having some good scanning tools, since not everything will come to you in digital form. A couple of scanners that I've seen praised are
- The Fujitsu ScanSnap (Windows and Mac versions available)
- The NeatReceipts Scanalizer (only available for Windows)

And, of course, good back-ups are even more critical the more you rely on digital files - but that's another topic for another day.

Paper or digital? I come down firmly on the side of "whatever works best for you" since each person's needs are different. And a "some of both" answer might work best for a number of people, too.

Coming Attractions: I've pulled The Myth of the Paperless Office off my bookshelf as the next organizing-related book to read; I'll report back when I've finished it.

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