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The Complete Guide to Document Digitization


The Complete Guide to Document Digitization

Learn everything you need to know about how to transform your physical media into digital files for increased accessibility.

As businesses look for new ways to adapt to customer demand and keep up with the global marketplace, they are increasingly turning to document digitization solutions to convert their physical paperwork into digital files.

Digitization can provide instant access to important files that would take days — or even weeks — to deliver physically, vastly improving operational efficiency and increasing customer satisfaction. And as organizations spend $8 billion on managing paper annually, digitization strategies can significantly decrease cost and waste.

Digitization is vital for any business looking to operate at the speed of the 21st century. Read on to learn everything your organization needs to get started with its digital transformation.

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What is document digitization?

Document digitization is the process of transforming physical media files into a format recognized by computers.

The following are media files that organizations may want to digitize for backup and archival purposes:

  • Paper documents
  • Contracts
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Books
  • Blueprints
  • Credit or identification cards
  • Video cassettes
  • Audio cassettes
  • And much, much more.

Learn more about how document digitization fits into modern business models by reading What Is Document Digitization? 

Did You Know?:  The fi-800R is an award-winning scanner built to process document, image, and ID card scans quickly and reliably, all within an ultra-compact footprint.

How do you digitize documents?

Digitization of documents and other media requires specialized hardware, which scans and then converts physical media into the necessary binary code computers can access. Scanners often include dedicated software that provides a user interface for configuring scan quality, file formats, sharing capabilities, and more.

Digitization methods differ based on the scanned media, as the source material's size, age, and quality may require specialized hardware for optimal scans.

Common media types

Standard documents

Standard, letter-sized paperwork is the easiest to scan. Document scanners come in all shapes and sizes for various purposes, from home office scanning to enterprise use.

Many are equipped with automatic document feeders capable of holding hundreds of documents at a time and can scan them within a few minutes with the push of a button.

Identification cards

ID cards need highly accurate scanners to ensure no data is lost when digitized. Some scanners come with optical character recognition (OCR) systems that enable high-quality image capture capable of processing fully-extractable text data.

Read The Process of Digitization: How Physical Media Becomes Digital Collateral to learn more about transforming physical documents into digital files.

The benefits of digitization

Businesses that digitize their workflow stand to benefit almost immediately from increased organizational capabilities and gains in efficiency.

Other benefits of digitization

Employee productivity

Digital files are easier to share, find, and access than physical media. Businesses can store digital files on a central server, allowing increased accessibility for employees at locations across the globe.

Decreased overhead costs

As businesses reduce the amount of paper and ink used in the office, costs for printing and storing excessive volumes of paper will also decrease.

Available space

Physical files take up space, and archives can quickly grow out of control after just a few years of storage. Digitizing these documents means their physical counterparts can be sent to off-site storage or even disposed of.

Read 3 High-Value Examples of Document Digitization to discover how medical centers, tax services, and high schools have all made the digital switch.

Did You Know?:  PCMagazine described the fi-8270 image scanner as “a fast, accurate document scanner for midrange to high-volume loads.” Click here to read the full review and learn why it earned an “excellent” 4 out of 5 rating.

How to digitize books

Books come in various sizes and shapes, and older books may be too delicate for a flatbed scanner.

In this case, an overhead scanner works best, as it can capture an entire, fully-configurable area without needing to come into direct contact with the book.

Dedicated overhead book scanners are also purpose-built to digitize fonts of various sizes, ensuring scanned pages don’t appear blurry or unreadable. Many book scanners come with software that can identify flaws, rotate skewed pages, and minimize errors.

Check out How Book Digitization Works to discover the best equipment for scanning books.

How to digitize photos

Like books, digitizing photos requires specialized equipment and techniques to ensure the highest-quality scans while minimizing damage to the original image.

A scanner with an automated document feeder will capture photos taken within the past few decades. These will allow you to stack hundreds of photos and scan them within a few minutes.

For older, more delicate photos, a flatbed or even overhead scanner is the best option to avoid jamming and potentially ruining your photos.

Fingerprints and the skin’s natural oils can ruin the original image. When handling old photos, always use nitrile gloves and avoid touching the front of your images.

Read How Photo Digitization Works to discover the many benefits of digitizing your photo collection and learn which equipment is best suited for the job..

Necessary features for digitization

There are several essential features to look for when shopping for digitization equipment or services. These features will ensure your digital copies are easily accessible while reducing errors introduced during the scanning process

Key digitization features

High-quality format conversion

To aid in digitization and increase the versatility of your digital output, look for systems that can convert physical files into the following:

  • Document files like .doc and .txt
  • Adobe reader files like .pdf
  • Markup files like .xml,  .csv or.json
  • Image files like .jpg, .png, or .tiff

Robust image editing support

Digital scanners often come packaged with software to enhance their capabilities. Some software includes image processing features to reduce errors through post-processing, such as:

  • Automatic orientation correction
  • Cropping
  • Removal of tears, folds, punch holes, and other flaws
  • Removal of blank pages
  • And more.

Reliable document indexing

Ensuring files are named and organized correctly is vital for improving efficiency and preventing loss of necessary documentation.

Some digitization software includes automated naming conventions, allowing organizations to ensure large collections of documents are scanned and sorted appropriately.

Read 6 Must-Have Features for Document Digitization Software & Systems to increase the quality and accuracy of your digital scans.

Services to help you go digital

There are numerous benefits to going digital. Still, organizations may not have the necessary systems in place to start digitizing without a massive up-front investment in time or resources.

Numerous local and national services exist to help home offices and enterprises kick off their digitization efforts.

Outsource service providers


ScanDigital provides a simple mail-in service for digitizing images and analog audio and video sources. Mail in your media and receive a download link or physical drive in the mail within a few weeks.

Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain provides a full-service digitization approach for businesses and enterprises. They offer essential document scanning services, a digital mailroom solution to scan and index incoming mail, and secure off-site archival and document disposal.

Read 3 Document Digitization Services to Help You Go Digital this year to learn more details about these and other services to help digitize your business.

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No salesy spiels. Let's help solve your problem.

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Our recommendation: The ScanSnap and fi Series of scanners

Those in the market for document digitization scanners have no shortage of options. We take great pride in having spent the last 85+ years researching, designing and developing some of the most advanced and powerful electronics in the world, including our ScanSnap and fi Series of scanners.

Built to purpose for the most demanding document handling jobs, fi Series scanners are capable of processing tens-of-thousands of pages per day at the highest levels of accuracy. Their intuitive integration capabilities with all existing work suites minimize time-to-value for businesses looking to invest in tools that will pay dividends for years to come.

The fi Series of scanners is perfect for small to medium-sized companies looking to digitize their offices. For example, the ultra-compact fi-800R makes an excellent front-desk scanner capable of processing documents, envelopes, passports, or IDs. For daily scanning, the fi-8170 utilizes our proprietary Clear Image Capture technology for fast, reliable, high-quality scans. This versatile line contains document digitization hardware built for any situation. Click here to learn more or shop the rest of our scanner line.