An effective document-imaging solution may improve an organization’s bottom line, but only if you have the right products to implement your plan. Hundreds of products out there fall under the category of “document imaging,” which can make finding the solution that meets your organizational requirements rather daunting.

Although I haven’t sifted through the entire spectrum of available products, I have found one solution that performed well for my clients and has proven to be cost effective and efficient. The complete solution costs less than $800 in hardware and software, provided the server and workstations already exist. Further, I was able to implement the solution in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

If you’re an IT pro who’ll be involved in the purchase of document-imaging equipment, the details about the cost, parts, and process of this solution may aid your search.

More about choosing a document-imaging solution

In my previous article, I discussed how to choose the right document-imaging strategy by performing the proper due diligence and asking the right questions. Read it to find out more about the issues involved in choosing a solution such as this one.

It all starts with the right software
Almost all good IT solutions require the marriage of good hardware and software. My belief is that the application should drive the choice of supported hardware, so let’s first look at our document-imaging and management software.

Scansoft has provided some innovative Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and document-imaging software in the past, and in my opinion, its newest product, PaperPort Pro 9 Office, is one of the best out-of-box document-imaging applications available. The product is targeted as a solution for small and medium-size businesses, as well as for the enterprise customer. The product datasheet provides additional information. Scansoft also sells a PaperPort SDK for developers and system integrators.

I chose PaperPort Pro for my client because it has all the features I recommend for document-imaging software, including compatibility with virtually all scanners and digital copiers, automatic PDF file creation, highly accurate OCR, and quick index and search features. However, the price tag is what sets the product apart from its competitors: It retails for $199.99.

The hardware to match
I have seen what would have been great document-imaging options turn south because of the wrong choice of hardware solutions. The wrong document-imaging hardware can make the process of getting the paper to the application a huge headache. Be sure that your hardware is—first and foremost—compatible with the document-management software you use. In addition, be sure that it will seamlessly integrate into the document-imaging strategy you have selected.

For organizations that have not already made the investment in a business-class scanner or digital copier, I suggest looking closely at Visioneer’s line of business scanners. I chose the Visioneer 9650 USB for my client. It’s a 42-bit color scanner that offers three key capabilities I believe are essential: high-speed 12-page-per-minute throughput, a reliable automatic document feeder, and a comfortable purchase price of $599.99.

Bringing it all together
Once my client had the right software and hardware in place, we just had to figure out how to bring the document-imaging solution together. Figure A shows the process involved in a typical network-based document-imaging and management process.

Figure A

The first step in the process is to feed your paper documents into your scanner. If you’re lucky, your scanner or digital copier allows for one-touch scanning of multiple documents. Your scanner or digital copier will be connected to a system that runs your document-imaging and management software. This is typically a workstation-class system and can even be the workstation of the user who regularly performs the scanning of documents.

During the scanning process, the electronic form of the document is read into OCR if applicable, made easily retrievable by the addition of keywords, and saved in the organization’s standard format, ideally on a network location such as a file server. Once residing on the network, the document can be either archived or retrieved by other users based on its content and keywords.