One of the best ways to organize your documents at work or home is by digitizing them.
Electronic copies of our documents are becoming increasingly important with the world working towards a paperless future.
They are harder to lose and easier to share or keep track of. Additionally, digitized documents are easy to access, safer for your business overall, and more convenient to use in the workplace.
According to research, workers spend around 10-30 minutes per day looking for or managing paper documents manually. Or around 6 hours weekly.
When it comes to electronic documents, meanwhile, the search is almost instant. Even more, if they’re properly tagged within a document management system.
If you’re looking to digitize your documents and make your life easier when it comes to document management, the first step you should take is to create electronic documents of your documents.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The Difference Between Digital and Electronic Documents
- Why Create Electronic Copies Of Your Documents? 5 Biggest Benefits
- 3 Best Ways To Create And Store Electronic Copies Of Your Paper Documents
- 7 Different Ways To Protect And Safely Store Your Digital Copies
- Why Convert To PDF
The Difference Between Digital and Electronic Documents
First, it's important to understand the difference between digital and electronic documents.
Digital document: A document created using computer software stored on a computer in binary form. The document is similar to a physical copy, and the only difference is that it can only be viewed on an electronic device. A digital document is a readable version of the original document, only in paperless form.
Electronic document: This refers to a document in the form of pure data. An electronic document is not readable like a digital document and is meant to be transmitted or processed by a computer. These documents can only be accessed through an electronic data interchange (EDI) system.
To be more specific, chances are, you’ve come across many different types of electronic documents daily in your work.
Types of electronic documents
- Spreadsheets: These are commonly used in businesses and can be created using software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. The document formats include .xls or .csv
- Images: An image is a type of electronic document that contains a visual representation of an object. The most common file formats for images are .jpg, .gif, and .png
- PDFs: Portable Document Format(PDF) is a file format that captures all the elements of a printed document as an image that you can view, print, or forward to someone else. PDFs are often used for tax documents, contracts, and other important papers.
- Presentations: A presentation is an electronic document that contains slides with images, text, and multimedia elements. The most common file format for presentations is .ppt or .pptx
Then, the next question you might be asking yourself when it comes to digitizing your document is as follows…
Why Create Electronic Copies Of Your Documents? 5 Biggest Benefits
There are many reasons why you might want to create an electronic copy of your document.
- Ease of access.
- Easy to share documents.
- Saving space.
- Enhanced document security.
Ease of access
An electronic document can be easily accessed from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. You can also view it on any device, including your smartphone or tablet.
Storing documents electronically reduces your reliance on paper. This helps you save trees and conserve the environment.
Going paperless has its own slew of benefits. Learn more about 11+ reasons to go paperless for more benefits.
Easy to share
It's very easy to share an electronic document with someone else. All you need to do is send them a link or attach the file to an email.
Electronic documents take up much less space than physical copies. This is especially useful if you have a small office or home.
Enhanced document security
You can password protect your electronic document to keep it safe from prying eyes. Electronic documents are also less likely to be lost or stolen.
Here are just a couple of ways you can protect your electronic documents:
- How To Encrypt Or Password Protect A PDF File Before Sharing
- How to Send Secure and Encrypted Emails (Gmail, Outlook, iOS, and More)
- PDF And Document Security Systems: Protect, Track, And Secure PDFs
Some of the most common and most important documents you should be digitizing include:
- Tax returns.
- Medical records.
- Insurance documents.
- Bank statements.
- Wills and trusts.
- And more.
Wondering how to digitize your most important documents?
Here’s what you need to know.
3 Best Ways To Create And Store Electronic Copies Of Your Paper Documents
There are several ways that you can create an electronic copy of your document. The best method will depend on the type of document that you have, as well as your personal preference.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular methods:
This is one of the most common methods of creating an electronic copy of a document. There are several ways of scanning a document, such as:
- Using a scanner - This is the most straightforward way to scan a document. Simply place your document on the scanner and press the "scan" button. The scanned image will be saved as a digital file on your computer.
- Using your smartphone - Many smartphones now have built-in scanners that you can use to digitize your documents. Simply launch the scanner app and hold your phone over the document you want to scan. The image will be saved to your phone's memory.
- Using a photocopier - Most photocopiers now can scan documents and save them as digital files. Simply place your document in the photocopier and select the "scan" option. The file will be saved to a memory card or USB drive.
Also referred to as "optical character recognition" software, OCR software converts images of text into editable text files. This is a valuable tool if you want to digitize a document that contains a lot of text, such as a contract or legal document.
Many different OCR software programs are available, such as Adobe Acrobat, Google Drive, and Office Lens.
A PDF converter is a type of software that allows you to convert PDF files into other formats, such as Word or Excel. This is useful if you need to edit the text in a PDF document.
Here are a few different ways you can convert your documents into PDFs:
- How to Convert XLSX (Excel) Files to PDF (For Free And Online)
- Image to PDF - How to Convert JPG Or PNG Screenshots to PDF
- How to Convert MHTML to PDF (Step-By-Step Guide)
Then, once you create electronic copies or convert them to PDF, the next thing you’ll need to do is secure your documents.
7 Different Ways To Protect And Safely Store Your Digital Copies
Once you've created digital copies of your documents, it's essential to protect them.
Digitizing a document does not make it invulnerable to unauthorized access or data leaks. So, you should take deliberate steps to protect digital documents should be taken.
Here are 7 different ways you can protect and secure your electronic documents:
- Using password protection.
- Document management software.
- Cloud storage.
- Locking folders.
- 2FA authentication.
- Local backups.
Now, let’s cover each method in detail.
One way to protect your documents is to password protect them.
This will prevent anyone from opening the document unless they have the correct password. You can also use password managers to generate and store strong passwords for your digital documents.
Another way to protect your documents is to encrypt them.
This means that the document will be converted into a code that can only be decoded with a special key or password. Encryption is a more secure method than password protection, as it makes it much harder for someone to access your documents, such as PDFs.
Document management software
Document management software is designed to help you manage and protect your digital documents. This type of software will usually include features such as password protection, encryption, watermarking, and more.
Essentially, you can use a document management system (DMS) in almost all steps of your document lifecycle system.
Read more about using document management here:
- Switching from Physical Documents to an Electronic Document and Record Management System (EDRMS)
- All You Need to Know About EDMS Standards and Requirements
- How To Use Document Management To Protect Customer Information
Cloud storage is a way of storing files online.
This is a convenient way to store documents, as you can access them from anywhere. However, it's important to make sure that your cloud storage provider has robust security measures in place to protect your data.
Another way to protect your documents is to store them in a locked folder. This will prevent anyone from accessing the folder or the files inside it.
Two-factor authentication is a security measure that requires you to provide two forms of identification when logging in to an account. Especially when you need to reset your password.
This makes it more difficult for someone to hack into your account and access your files.
It's also a good idea to create local backups of your digital documents.
This means that you will have a copy of the document stored on your computer or an external hard drive. Local backups are convenient as you can access them even if you don't have an internet connection.
Why Convert To PDF
Once you've created digital copies of your documents, you may want to convert them to PDF.
PDF is a popular file format used for documents such as contracts, legal documents, and e-books. Converting your document to PDF has several benefits:
- PDF files are smaller in size than other file formats, so they take up less space on your computer or device.
- PDFs are more secure than other file formats, as they can be password protected and encrypted.
- PDFs can be viewed on any device, regardless of the operating system.
Then, once your work documents are in PDF form, you can use different document generation software to streamline business operations and essentially, automate your document management or generation.
When choosing software to convert your documents to PDF, it's important to consider the available security features.
As we mentioned before, PDF files can be password protected and encrypted. Make sure that the software you choose has these security features to keep your documents safe.
Read more on using document generation software here, if you want to manage your electronic copies better:
- 7+ Questions When Evaluating Document Generation Software
- How Does Document Automation Work? Complete Overview
- Is Document Automation Right For You? 5 Factors To Consider
Hope this guide to creating electronic copies of your documents was helpful!
As we have seen, there are many ways to create digital copies of your documents.
You can use encryption, document management software, cloud storage, or convert your documents to PDF. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Whichever method you choose, remember the safety of your documents should be your top priority, and only entrust them to software and services that you can trust.
Last but not least, once you create electronic copies of your documents, you’ll want to store them in the right document management system.
This helps your overall business operations through automation and keeps your sensitive information safe.
Not sure how to find the right document management software or what features you should be looking for?
See our guide on how to evaluate document management solutions for a more detailed breakdown of this.