Opinion: Why you should lose your paper records

Companies can now buy 15TB of raw capacity for $50,000 or less

The approach companies often take with their archived paper records is out of sight, out of mind. While most major companies digitize newly produced data and reports using technologies like COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk) or disk-archiving systems, decades-old boxes of paper may remain stored with third-party storage providers.

Those days may be coming to an end. Companies can now buy a suitable storage system with 15TB of raw capacity for $50,000 or less. While there are still labor costs associated with retrieving, scanning and indexing these paper records, the average size of a scanned image is 20KB to 40KB so companies can store millions of paper documents on a 1TB disk.

Justifying the cost is easier as well. To store a box of paper costs about 50 cents per month. While not much, eliminating the annual costs associated with storing thousands of boxes can nearly fund the cost of digitizing this data since companies can use their annual budget for off-site storage costs as the funding source for the new storage gear and labor while digitizing the data eliminates the recurring off-site fees.

Also driving the digitizing of archived paper records are data discoveries and the liability that keeping paper records poses to companies long term. Digitizing these documents enables companies to recognize and classify the data on these paper documents. Once indexed, companies can set policies that delete records as they reach the end of their useful life, thereby mitigating future legal risks.

Archived paper records may be out of sight, but they should definitely not be out of mind. Lower storage prices and the need to automate data discoveries are giving companies the justification to tackle an age-old problem while making these records easier to manage in the long term.

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst at DCIG Inc. He may be reached at jerome.wendt@att.net.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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