Digital Document Storage vs. Long-Term Box Storage

By Mitch Taube posted 03-13-2015 09:40


When it comes to storing documents in the modern world, all signs seem to point to “digital.”

This point was recently underscored as a headline-making fire at a well-known document storage warehouse sent the message loud and clear: storing paper documents creates unnecessary risks, where digital storage brings clear benefits across the board.

Traditionally, long-term storage of paper documents has been thought to be the most cost-effective way to store documents that don’t need to be retrieved. But the recent blaze – which destroyed countless paper documents – exposed the inherent risks of storing paper. And these risks must be taken into account when choosing between long-term box storage and digital.

Let’s go over some of the benefits of digital over analog storage.

Safety & Security

Scanning paper documents stored in boxes is one of the best ways to safeguard important information. See the at-a-glance comparison below to see how digitizing keeps your documents protected from all of the vulnerabilities that paper is susceptible to.

Check out this at-a-glance comparison:

Digital storage Box storage
  • Document level security settings
  • Fire- and water-proof
  • Automated backups for disaster recovery
  • Document level tracking and audit trails
  • Susceptible to theft
  • Vulnerable to water & fire
  • Lost forever in a natural disaster
  • Difficulty tracking physical documents


If you’re looking to improve your company’s efficiency and profitability, then again digital storage seems to be the clear winner.

Digital storage  Box storage
  • Quick and easy retrieval
  • 24/7/365 access to documents
  • View from any computer or mobile device from anywhere in the world
  • Serve customers faster & better
  • Staff gets more done in less time
  • Share and distribute easily and quickly
  • Retrieval takes hours or days
  • Access only during business hours
  • Viewing limited to physical location of document
  • Slower retrieval = slower service
  • Staff wastes time managing paper
  • Sharing and distribution is highly impractical

Retention & compliance

State and federal regulations make meeting document retention guidelines a complex process, which is made even more difficult by adding paper into the mix. See the comparison below:

Digital storage  Box storage 
  • Automatically set retention guidelines and action
  • “Pre-delete” alerts provide an extra layer of control and prevent mistakes
  • Single-step purging process
  • Documents are immediately available and admissible in court
  • Minimize legal exposure and costs with automated retention schedules
  • Manual purgingrequires labor and time
  • No “safety net” to catch wrongfully purged documents
  • Painstaking multi-step process
  • Can take days for documents to be available in response to a legal request
  • Removing boxes in storage is costly

Choose from 2 “go digital” strategies

Going digital and removing paper may seem complicated and costly, but there are two strategies that can help you get it done at the right pace and cost for your company.

Option A) Start by scanning only the most recent documents, working your way backwards with an incremental amount done each month. This is easier than “eating the whole pie at once,” and can be done with a fixed monthly investment.

Option B) Scan all of your documents (or a subset) over the course of a few weeks. This method is great for transitioning quickly, and lets you enjoy all of the benefits of digital document storage going forward.

The digital revolution

When you consider all of the benefits of digital vs. long-term box document storage, it’s easy to see why so many organizations are choosing scanning over storing paper these days.

Nor is there any need to wait for the next tragic fire or natural disaster to remind us of this truth. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

#ScanningandCapture #ElectronicRecordsManagement #documentscanningservices #documentmanagement


12-30-2015 10:52

Great comparison. You refer in your blog to a well known records center fire. In my opinion I do not believe it makes good business sense to digitize all records stored at a records center. Most of these records are inactive, very seldom accessed and living out their life until early retention requirements are met and records can then be destroyed. If there are vital records stored offsite or anywhere, of course they should be digitized in case of disaster. I have written a couple blogs about digitizing. Digitizing Some Records Makes Good Business Sense at and Digitize All the Records ...Are You Kidding Me? at Both are on my LinkedIn posts.

03-19-2015 05:45

A digital revolution - for sure.
I in some views agree with David, but at the same time, like with anything, change is inevitable. It greatly comes down to a few things in order for there to be less chaos, and more order.
-current situation
-workflow processes
-what's absolutely necessary to keep (ex. legal documents, etc.) -- this can be reduced to a bare minimum, and overall decreases the time expenditure that would have been used for many of these paper trails.
-acquiring new solutions that benefit all around
Scanning over a few weeks time is quite time consuming, automation in processes are where we're headed these days, especially with document management/scanning etc. Finding the right storage (ECM system) to house all these digitized documents is another factor - in house, SharePoint On-Prem, Office 365. Many people rule out SharePoint automatically because of not being able to physically scan to SharePoint. People are so used to stand-alone solutions, or just the standard software desktop installation, and away we go.. Apps are hitting the market and making things really easy these days. Check out and you'll see a Native SharePoint app that works for both On-Prem / Office 365 (you can even download a trial in the Office Store) and there's even a desktop version (GScan) that has integrative features to many ECMs, LOBs, etc. Scan, index, and create fulltext searchable PDFs. Records Management is not as difficult as it once was. A lot of research has to take place in order for a great change like this to occur to make things as efficient as possible. But, it's doable. Goodluck!

03-18-2015 05:42

Good piece, glaringly obvious benefits and most legacy paperwork could well be converted to digital format via scanning and made accessible at the desktop via some EDMS or CM system, however, there will always be a need for certain physical documents to be retained, legal documents being one example. And…even with cloud, backups, tapes, drives etc. people and organisation still manage to lose their digital copies one way or another and in some cases cannot replace them.
The big problem I’ve come across is, many organisation cannot handle the electronic files they generate via standard applications, never mind adding 1,000s of scanned images into the mix.
In my humble opinion, there is a bit to go before organisations get their digital house in order.