You can get rid of your paper and become paperless, but the information and data that was on the printed paper is still required. There is information that you can’t get rid of because of its importance. Information probably accumulates as fast as paper stacks do, and could be the main cause of the paper stacks.
How do you handle data management in a paperless office? You will need the following:
- Regular back-up procedure
- Easy filing system
- Secure electronic file system
- Necessary hardware
- Necessary software
It is essential to have a system that manages electronic documents when working in a paperless office. These systems are called document management systems, and it ensures the ease of accessing documents for retrieval purposes and filing and storing.
These management systems for documents are normally used by larger companies and not when working from home. The systems change the document into digitals images that are stored electronically and accessed by software to search, retrieve and edit the specific document. These systems have security in place for safeguarding access and enhance electronic filing procedures. A disadvantage is that these systems are expensive.
There are however less expensive alternatives for document management. By using a scanner and conversion software, you can also save your documents in PDF files in a less expensive manner. Here are some options listed as alternatives to the expensive systems:
- Acrobat Professional from Adobe costs about $400 and is usable on a PC or Mac. It creates PDF files, which can be saved in Microsoft Word or similar software. Text is automatically recognized with usage of OCR, or optical character recognition.
- NeatShoeBox can only be used on a PC, not on Mac. It costs approximately $200. This is a great tool to convert scanned business cards, and receipts by taking the relevant information from these documents and exporting it to Microsoft Excel, Outlook and also Quicken.
- PDF Pro Converter costs less than $100 and is a product from Nuance (the folks who make Dragon Naturally Speaking). It is also only usable on a PC. This product allows you to create a PDF file and then to change the image to files that are searchable.
When you used filing cabinets to store your hard copies, you had a system. A paperless office also needs a system that will work for you. Here are some tips in creating your electronic files management system:
- Backing up your files regularly to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or CD is extremely important. If your computer crashes without a backup you will lose all your data you have spent months in compiling.
- Create your filing system online the same way you did when filing paper. You can use the same names for documents and files and select the same categories. The difference is that you filing systems are now on your computer.
- Incoming documentation, such as emails, online statements, and documents, are saved by using the print-to-file options. These documents are then saved in their files, ready to be printed if necessary.
- Master files consist of a list of all the files and folders.
- There will still be paper files necessary as well, but it will be much less than before. Go through these files on a regular basis, and recycle the files that have become obsolete. Some of these files will be kept long-term. Paper files will consist of legal documents and documents for tax purposes.
- At the end of the year you can review all your files. Add files that are not used anymore but need to be stored to your electronic management system. Recycle or shred the files no longer needed. Be meticulous with these files, making it easier to find when you need to search for them later. You can, for example, add all your year’s invoice onto a CD and store it.
- Be careful not to throw the original receipts for tax purposes away too soon. You may need it as evidence for a tax audit. A former IRS agent, a Chicago CPA, Barry Steiner, suggested keeping documents related to expenses that are deducted, such as invoices, receipts, bills and cancelled checks for a period of three years before you shred it. In preventing identity theft, he suggests you shred these documents.
Printed documents and paperless office tool should be used together, to enhance productivity and at the same time protecting the planet.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
At Out of the Office, we are committed to providing earth-friendly administration and offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.
Interested in going paperless, contact us for a personalized coaching session!
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