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Document Imaging Dramatically Reduces Physical Storage

Have you seen the file room of a large paper-based enterprise? It might look something like the following.

Numerous steel filing cabinets, painted dark green, are laid out in rows after rows in the room. The sound of cabinet drawers moving on ball bearings is a constant background refrain. One filing clerk or another is regularly coming into the room to take out or put back folders.

The folders themselves look dog-eared and bulging with documents. How the documents manage to remain in the folder without falling out is a wonder.

You try to estimate how much space the room must be occupying. The room is in the main building of the enterprise, in the prime business district, where each square foot of space costs a small fortune.

You estimate that each filing cabinet consumes three feet by six feet, including the gaps among the cabinets and walkways among them. You don’t want to count the number of cabinets in each row and the number of rows. The sheer cost of that much space begins to make you acutely uncomfortable.

Document Imaging Storage Requirements

You try to estimate how much disk space will be needed to store all this information. A text document containing 2,000 characters (assumed average per document) might need, say, 10KB max. And assuming each folder contains 100 sheets on the average, a whole file-full can take up 1MB. A filing cabinet with 50 files can be accommodated on a 50MB disk.

Considering that your storage disks come in GBs, it’s not inconceivable that the whole filing room full of information can be accommodated in two 80GB disks. Add another two 80GB disks to accommodate the space gobbling graphics and you need four (or say five) 80GB disks to accommodate all this info.

Actually, you are likely to be very conservative. That 80GB capacity you assumed might be standard with your old desktop. A Dell Inspiron model comes with a 320GB hard disk these days. That means the whole room-full of content can be accommodated in just one system!

You can’t quite believe it. There must be something you have not considered. But one thing you do know. The whole content can be accommodated in a few high capacity disks, each not much larger than a paperback in size.

Even adding backups, and space for operating systems and applications, the storage requirements should not be much more than what is required by just one of these filing cabinets.

Why then, you wonder, should these people waste so much prime space on these ancient document storage systems?

Beyond Storage

Actually, document imaging software is not confined to storage-space minimization. It is also concerned with speedy retrieval of documents, worldwide access to the content, much greater security (you couldn’t have walked in like this into the electronic filing room), and so on.


Document imaging and storage requirements are indeed related. Once the documents are imaged and archived, you can shred most of the paper documents. Only those documents required to be kept in paper form under some law or other, or that might be needed for litigation, need to be preserved. These can be stored in some special facility located at some far less expensive premises.

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