There are so many document scanners on the market today it’s hard to know where to begin. Like most things in this world, some scanners are brilliant, some are crap, and most are middle of the road. How do you know which scanner will deliver the most bang for your buck over the long haul? By asking the right vendor the right questions, of course! Or by reading this tidy article we’ve put together from the bottom of our hearts to help the right scanner fulfill its scanning destiny within the walls of your office.
Let’s begin! Ask yourselves these questions:
What documents do we scan?
If you say you mostly scan oversized encyclopedia-like perfect bound books with yellowed pages and faded type—that’s really cool! But that also puts you in a 2% category best served by a chat with our amazing service representatives. If you’re part of the 98% that scans “normal” paper documents, read on, friends!
Do you scan mostly forms and invoices? You’re not alone. Get that paper gone, right? Any decent document scanner should work for documents that aren’t image-intensive. But if you scan photo-based documents regularly, then a high-resolution scanner will keep things crisp and clean and noice!
How many documents do we scan?
Volume is a key consideration. There are inexpensive scanners out there capable of handling low-volume needs with minimal maintenance. The question is whether it’s more cost-effective to purchase dozens of slower cheapo scanners for individual employees or one powerful grandpappy scanner that holds down a designated scanning zone in the office like a scantastic staff sergeant.
If you scan a large number of documents every day, then you need a fast, high-volume document scanner with an automatic feeder that works marvelously with minimal oversight—yippee!
The bottom line here is productivity: Do you want to pay your employees to scan paper or pay for a scanner that lets employees do their thing (make more money) for your company? Choose a scanner that will make life easier for employees and more efficient for your business process. Boom.
Are we pinched for desk space?
Some scanners are the size of Cadillacs. They’re usually built into hulking multitask machines that can print, fax, shred, and energize unsuspecting interns to other floors. Those monsters didn’t get the memo that high-speed scanning now comes in a tabletop-sized package—and that printers are the devil’s work and are the root cause of most paper problems (but that’s another article). If you’re short on office space already, or if you’ve recently downsized your office to take advantage of a #WFH remote workforce, those old beasts have no place in your streamlined workflow. Especially not when Canon turbocharges the world of scanning with several models in a manageable modern size. You can’t fit them in your shoulder bag, but they won’t block the fire escape either.
Does resolution matter?
Did Russell Wilson matter to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII? Yes, resolution matters. But it matters to each business differently depending on the application. There are two factors you should consider here: dots per inch (DPI) and bit depth. Most of the time, you only need to worry about DPI because most business documents are printed in monochrome black ink, not color.
DPI is a measure of image density. The higher the scanner’s DPI, the higher the resolution. Many companies find that a DPI between 200 and 300 works well. At this resolution, most desktop scanners meet the need, such as the Canon DR-S150 and Canon DR-M260.
But what if your industry is in graphic design, photography, architecture, real estate, or art? Then you’ll need an even higher DPI (1200). And you’ll need to consider bit depth, which measures color resolution expressed in pixels. The higher the bit depth, the more nuanced and accurate the color representation. Basic color scans fall in the 24- to 36-bit range, but if you scan detailed photographs, images, or designs, then you’ll need a much higher bit depth. For example, the CanoScan LiDE400 Color Image Scanner has a maximum optical resolution of 4800 x 4800 DPI, and a 48-bit depth that can produce over 281 trillion colors. Overkill? Maybe. Maybe not. Tell us what you do and we’ll tell you what resolution will make you happy!
Do we need optical character recognition?
Maybe. It depends on how you use your documents. Optical character recognition (OCR for short) identifies characters as text in your imaged documents. OCR is a great feature to search, index, and cross-reference documents. That’s important when you’re digitizing—even if you plan to archive those files. OCR doesn’t make the documents text-based, but it does allow you to pull information from those scanned images, and find them when you need them. Without OCR, you’re turning paper that’s hard to find into an image that’s hard to search. If OCR technology works for your applications, ask us what scanner we recommend—git ‘er done and do it right.
Are all scanners compatible?
Nope! We’re talking to you, Mac user. Compatibility is better than ever, but not all products plug and play like magic. And we feel scanners should be magical. Pretty much all scanners have hung out with PC software (Microsoft Windows) from way back because scanner-demand has been driven by industries that create high-volume records (typically non-creative industries). As a result, some high-volume scanners don’t give Mac OS X—and creative types—the kind of attention Mac users deserve in the 2020s.
If your network lives and breathes on Mac OS X, then ask your friendly service representative to verify that the scanner you’ve been ogling for days—we get it!—digs your system. Even if the scanner is not compatible with Mac out of the box, a third party driver sometimes does the trick. Who doesn’t love a sly workaround? If you’re curious which Mac compatible scanner might work for your daily needs, check out the Canon DR-C240 desktop scanner.
Do we need a flatbed or a sheet-fed scanner?
That’s like asking if you should eat avocado or bacon for breakfast. Not really. A flatbed scanner gives you high-quality scans from printed books, magazines, photographs, or fragile documents. The flatbed scanning process is user-dependent, time-intensive, and turtle-paced. Flatbeds are typically chosen for archival media to help preserve the binding, a fragile document, or photo quality that could be lost with fast-speed sheet-fed scanners. A flatbed scanner is like a souped-up, media-specific, archive-preserving copier that you keep spotlessly dust-free and polished with admiration. You love it like you love meditation (and avocados), and you only break it out for special occasions.
Sheet-fed scanners, on the other hand, are less expensive, take up less space, and gobble up paper like a plate a’ bacon at 11 am after a late night and a solid sleep-in. So good! Their speed doesn’t always produce archival scans of such high quality as avocado flatbeds, but they go through a pile of paper like buttah. On toast. With bacon on top.
How much should we spend?
Spend as little as possible in a top-tier bracket for your volume requirements—on a scanner that is NOT already discontinued. What do we mean by “top-tier?” We don’t mean a home office scanner you grab at OfficeMax. We mean that you’ll want to look at the two manufacturers that make up 75% of the scanner market for business; Canon or Fujitsu. You want to purchase a scanner that’s within your budget, but you also want one that will work dang hard over a good chunk of time and do the job it was born to do (volume requirements). A small desktop scanner won’t fly through the huge stacks of paper you expect it to. On the flip side, a high-speed production scanner isn’t a cost-effective purchase if you only scan a few pages each day. You don’t need to fork out all your change on the latest and greatest scanner on the market with bells and whistles and frills you may not need. But you also don’t want that scanner that’s an internet “hot buy,” which was discontinued 5 years ago—happens more often than you think! Like cell phones, scanner technology evolves each year. If you buy a model that was released 5 years ago and it has a 10-year lifespan, the technology is 15-years-old when you’re done using it. We replace our phones every 2 years—could you imagine still texting in T-9 world on a 2005 Blackberry or Sidekick flip phone? Find that happy medium. Don’t cheap out! Spend what’s required to keep plastic parts from the innards of your scanner from breaking off and catching a ride to the outside world on your last batch of sheets. Make sure the scanner can handle your volume and that it’s not discontinued.
Your space or ours?
That about does it for the Q&A, but if you’re still unclear about scanning stuff, please reach out to our team at Integra PaperLESS for advice. We sell in-office scanners and work-from-home scanners, plus we’re super friendly. There isn’t a curveball we can’t bat out of the park. If it turns out that scanning is something you’re into—hooray!—but you have concerns about getting through all that paper, we’re happy to take care of those piles for you. We have a sweet outsourced document scanning service setup. We’ll take your paper away and turn it into digital bliss, like a 1950s cleaning commercial.
The Parting Shot
Want to go paperLESS but don’t know where to start? We’ve partnered with some of the biggest names in the scanning world to put the best document scanners in our window display. Whether you’re a small business owner or a large organization, you can count on our unprecedented customer service every step of the way. Our 45+ years of expertise and professionalism make us a premier service provider throughout the northwestern United States. We always take care of our customers and we’re always up for a good story if you’ve got one. Reach out to learn more. We are pros at figuring out the best option for your path to paperLESS.