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5/28/2010
11:45 AM
Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood
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Printing Less Requires Extra Steps For SMBs

Many SMBs are using less paper, indicates a recent survey, and the first step can be as simple as getting larger monitors. But that cant be the only step.

Many SMBs are using less paper, indicates a recent survey, and the first step can be as simple as getting larger monitors. But that cant be the only step.According to a recent IDC survey, 31 percent of enterprises with fewer than 100 employees have a formal plan to reduce their use of paper, and the figure rises to 62.5 percent for those with 5,000 of more employees. And whatever they're doing appears to be working: 54 percent of respondents in enterprises smaller than 100 employees reported using fewer paper documents than last year. The rate rose to 59 percent for enterprises with more than 5,000 employees.

As for how to cut the use of paper, a big step, according to Nuance, is to get bigger monitors. Users will be able to view documents on-line with no particular eyestrain, cutting the temptation to make printouts. Prices of monitors continue to drop, they note.

But to view documents on the monitor, they have to be in digital format. Nuance (which sells scanning software) further recommends making scanning capabilities available throughout the organization by using multi-function printers (which Nuance does not make). Anyone should be able to scan, they say, and having the person who is most familiar with the data doing the scanning should improve productivity and workflow (and, presumably, accuracy.)

Specifically, paper documents should be scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) software into a searchable, editable format, such as Word or Excel, to unlock the information it contains. Existing PDF files should also be converted into editable, searchable formats. (Nuance makes conversion software, also.)

It all sounds fine in theory, but OCR can be an adventure in catching weird typographical errors caused by seemingly random misrecognition. Meanwhile, paper documents stuffed into a filing cabinet and forgotten are still likely to remain usable one, three, five, 15, or even 50 years from now. Sadly, that is not the case with data on your hard drive.

So going digital and putting paper behind you doubtless offers near-term advantages, but requires some planning and organization to avoid long-term catastrophe.

In the meantime, getting bigger monitors sounds great.

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