Business

Maybe it's time to go all out paperless

We're surrounded by paper - and businesses spend a lot of time and money moving paperwork around

PAPER is everywhere. We hardly think about it, but businesses spend a lot of time and money moving paperwork around. Analysts have been predicting the arrival of the paperless office for more than two decades, yet more paper is produced every year.

It's thought that in most areas of business, it's now possible to get rid of paper entirely. Digital documents are simpler, easier to store and send, more searchable and more versatile than paper. But practically speaking, many businesses have a long way to go before they become paperless.

There are a number of reasons why businesses still use paper, especially when it's the likes of the government that is telling you that you must keep “hard copy ” records. But this is changing, and most of the more progressive government departments understand that digital documents are just as good.

When applying for a loan or selling your business, signed paperwork is essential, but that looks like it might also be changing. Of course some people just like the way paper feels (psychologists call this 'haptic perception') and the fact that it's a real, physical item. Sometimes information inside a computer or the cloud, doesn't seem so real. But this is changing, as people grow up with computers being part of their lives.

Going paperless is more beneficial than it might first appear. Paperwork on desks and shelves is not only untidy, it's inefficient too. Organisation of digital files is simpler, and your office will look much neater. That will sometimes help you clear your mind and focus on your business.

One of the major benefits I see in storing your digital documents is that they can be retrieved, indexed and searched much faster than paper ones. An entire company's documents could be stored on a single laptop, instead of rooms of shelving.

If there's a fire or flood, recovery from a back-up is much easier with digital storage than with paper. You'll also save money on printing, postage and associated costs. You could even, in some cases, pay less rent because you won't need all that space for your old files.

Then there is the environmental aspect to a paperless office. Less printing means fewer trees cut down for pulp, and less energy used to make and transport paper.

Regarding the speed at which today's businesses operate, paper mail ('in the post')takes at leased a day to arrive if you're lucky, while e-mailed documents arrive within seconds. At a time when businesses need to move swiftly, getting rid of paper can give you a helpful burst of speed.

People have been talking about the paperless office for years. With the latest advances in this technology from software companies such as Paperless (this software does exactly what it says on the tin), we are closer to reaching this goal.

Going paperless can have many advantages for you, your employees and your business partners. Aside from the cost savings, it gives you more flexibility to run your business from anywhere, and get what you need whenever you need it.

It also removes the hassle of having to physically store paperwork, and that can save you money at times, when office space isn't cheap. Now you can store all your business documents safely and securely, taking up no physical space at all. Piles of office paperwork belong in the past. The future is definitely digital and paperless!

:: Trevor Bingham (editorial@itfuel.com) is business relationship manager at ItFuel in Craigavon. Follow them on Twitter @itfuel

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