Even the most efficient filing system cannot make hard copy documents as accessible and available as the electronic version. It is a big statement but compare searching for a piece of paper, or a specific paragraph in a large paper file.
You won’t know if that piece of paper is really there until you locate and go through that file. Then you need to read all of the content to find a specific paragraph.
Now consider a digital document, a searchable PDF, a Word document, Excel spreadsheet even a JPG or PNG. All of these formats have metadata attached to them automatically, such as the date and author and other data including keywords can be attached. It is also possible to search within a document, perhaps for a phrase, keywords, dates or combinations of these. The search can be across an entire disc drive, within a library or a folder which beats looking through a number of cabinets and files.
Hard copy documents may not always be available, as they may be in use by someone else. A digital document can be viewed by many people at the same time. Even if a document is protected against editing, copying or printing it can usually be viewed, by more than one person.
It also doesn’t matter what the time is, it doesn’t have to be during office hours to access electronic documents, if you have access to the network, you can search, locate your document and work anytime anywhere.
This is particularly relevant when cloud computing is implemented as digital documents stored in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, subject to your access rights. Where staff are on the road, work from home or located across a number of offices, this makes sound business sense.
Where a work team is spread around different locations, digital documents can be shared online, in real time using applications like Skype, Google Drive, Office 365 and many others.
Digital documents can also be accessed from more than just the office desktop computer: Smartphones, tablets and iPads can also be used.
Even legal documents can be in a digital format. Hard copies may be kept for a number of reasons but for ease of access and collaboration, digital is the solution. Most law courts are now setup to use digital evidence and for the submission of digital documents.
Security should not be an issue. Security can be applied on many levels, at the application level, hardware level, network and according to an individual’s access rights, right down to a single document. With all of these benefits evident, the justification for digital over hard copy is difficult to deny.