Practical Records Management Blog

Shoreline Records Management's blog highlights the latest in Document Management and Records Management - Document Scanning, Document Storage, Enterprise Content Management, and General Filing Tips and Advice.

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Google Expands OCR Capabilities for Document Scanning


google docs OCRGoogle is Now Offering Free OCR Services for Scanned Documents. Google announced yesterday that there is a new feature available in Google Docs to allow users to import Scanned Documents. The feature, describes as "Convert Text from PDF or image files to Google Docs Documents," allows users to import a Scanned PDF or Image File (JPEG, GIF, or PNG).

There are still some questions that come up as to whether or not this new functionality indicates an intention by Google to broaden the scope of their Google Docs platform, as well as questions about how Google Docs' new OCR functionality works and the functionality that it provides. These questions include:

What OCR Engine is Google using in the Google Docs Platform?

The OCR Engine used by Google in this process is not immediately clear. Google does Sponsor an Open Source OCR Engine and Document Analysis Platform called OCRopus, but Google hasn't publicly acknowledged that this is the technology being used by any of their services, including Google Books or the new Google Docs OCR Functionality.

Does Google Docs OCR Work with TIF Files?

During our testing, we noticed that the OCR functionality didn't work for one of the most standard image formats that we find clients using, TIF Images. TIF, or TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), Images are widely considered an Industry Standard for Scanning Paper Documents, so I found the absence of this functionality to be a surprising.

For those looking to convert TIF images, you may want to use Adobe Acrobat or another utility to convert TIF files to PDF, or check out ABBYY FineReader Online. For organizations looking to convert large volumes of information, I would recommend using an alternate document capture software for converting your images to OCR.

How Well does Google Docs OCR work?

The technology is still a bit new, as it was only released yesterday, but ars technica did some testing and was nice enough to summarize their experiences. Their results were about the same as the results we experienced during our testing, and they summarized their findings: "There are still cases where this OCR would be better than nothing." Not quite the ringing endorsement that you'd hope to see attached to a Google Service, but the offering is still new.

Because of the way the import mechanism is configured, Google Docs OCR may not be the best document scanning solution for every business case, especially if you're looking to convert a large volume of paper documents to digital images. For ad-hoc, low volume OCR requirements however, the Google Docs OCR functionality serves as a solid utility for converting paper into useable text.

Have you tried the Google Docs OCR tool yet? What have your experiences been? Have you had better success with other services or software? Share your experiences in the Comments!


3 Tips for Choosing a Network Document Scanner


Network Document Scanners are a popular choice for companies getting started with document scanning, and with good reason. They're reasonably priced, don't require a dedicated computer, and help companies quickly convert Paper to Digital Images. When looking for a scanner though, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all of the choices - are you sure you know what DPI is best for your application? When you go to make a purchase decision, consider these factors:


Network Scanner1) Daily Scanning Volume - This is the most important consideration when buying any scanner, networked or otherwise. Think about how many pages you'll need to capture on a daily basis, and make your buying decision accordingly. Try not to consider your entire backfile scanning project when making this determination, either - just think about how many pages you're likely to capture on a daily basis during the normal course of business. You can always outsource to a document scanning service provider to address your bulk scanning issues, saving you time and money in the process.


2) Bundled Software - Without Software, a scanner is just an expensive paperweight. You should make sure that some level of document scanning software is included with the equipment. It's particularly helpful if this is a flexible software toolkit like eCopy or NSi Autostore. These packages will let you do more than just drop images on network share devices and help you drive more value out of your investment.


3) Touchscreen or Keyboard Capabilities - Once you scan an image, you're going to want to be able to tag it with some sort of meaningful data to let you find it, or at least let the person on the other end of the receipt have an idea what it is. Be sure that the device you choose has a Touchscreen interface at the least, and ideally offers the option of attaching a keyboard. Some models, like the HP and Fujitsu Network Scanners, even come with built in keyboards, making them an attractive alternative for companies that need to add a bit more detail to what they're scanning.


There are a lot of options available when looking to buy a scanner, and it's important to not be distracted by the bright and shiny features. Most of the time, they're not going to be of much use to you. Instead, keep these practical elements in mind when making your buying decision and you'll end up much happier with the results.


Scanning Services for Microsoft Sharepoint - including Sharepoint 2010


With today marking the official release of Microsoft Sharepoint 2010, I thought it would be an appropriate time to discuss some of the services that we provide to support companies that are moving forward with Sharepoint at the center of their Document Management Strategy.

Sharepoint Scanning ServicesTo be sure, Microsoft has invested a lot of time and resources in improving upon previous iterations of Sharepoint, and the technology has come a long way since it's initial release. Today, I would not be alone in considering Sharepoint as one of the market leaders in the ECM (Enterprise Content Management) space, and we've been proponents of recommending it to clients when appropriate.

One of the challenges, however, is efficiently capturing paper content and delivering it to Sharepoint so that it can be searched and retrieved by users. There are many products available in the market to address this challenge, including Kofax Capture and KnowledgeLake - both of which are excellent solutions.

But what about Companies that want to leverage the benefits of Sharepoint without purchasing high-speed scanners and investing the time and resources in scanning the files themselves?

That's where our outsourced scanning services for Sharepoint come in. Our Production Document Scanning Bureau is capable of converting millions of pages on a monthly basis, and provides firms with a low price per page to convert paper to digital format. We handle the document preparation, scanning, quality control, and indexing, and return to clients a series of files that can be easily imported to Sharepoint.

Whether you're using an older version of the Sharepoint platform, or you plan to take advantage of the features that Sharepoint 2010 has to offer, consider outsourcing the scanning of your files. You'll be able to achieve a more rapid return on your document management investment, and save yourself a whole lot of hassle in the process.


Ready to take the first Step to getting your files scanned to Sharepoint?
Contact us today to discuss your Document Scanning Project and find out how our services can help lower your costs and accelerate your return on investment.



Digitizing Medical Records? Here are some things to consider


President Obama has vowed the U.S. will digitize all medical records by 2014, and an economic stimulus package passed by Congress last year allocates $20 billion toward the process. So Hospitals, group medical practices and physicians who for the most part have shied away from transitioning to a full-fledged Electronic Medical Record (EMR), are now compelled to take action. While the stimulus dollars will help defray the cost of implementing the infrastructure to migrate to EMR, the question of how or whether or not to digitize all or a portion of the Medical Record archive needs careful consideration.

Digitizing the archive requires a fairly labor intensive process; preparing the charts by removing paper clips, staples, etc., scanning, assigning index values to the scanned images and importing the data to the EMR. The value of having patient historical information as part of the new EMR system is clear, but what if the charts are rarely if ever accessed? What if, as in the instance of specialty practices such as Cardiology, it's not known when or if a patient will ever need to be seen again? Retention requirements mandate that the chart be maintained for as long as 10 years from the last visit.

One solution that should be considered is storing the older, less frequently retrieved charts offsite, at a secure, climate controlled location, with a Certified Document Management partner like Shoreline Records Management. Our Medical Record Storage Services allow healthcare organizations the flexibility to store charts in an efficient, cost effective manner, yet have them digitized on demand. Once digitized, the electronic chart is transmitted securely and imported directly into the organizations EMR system. Requests are fulfilled 24 hours, 7 days a week, often in as little as two hours.

In the scenario of frequently retrieved charts such as Pediatrics, digitizing the entire archive is more likely. Our Medical Record scanning service center is equipped with several of the latest high speed document scanners capable of capturing images at a rate of over 120 pages per minute. Projects that would take months or even years if done in house with current staff can be done quickly and affordably, allowing the organization to access historical Patient information within the new EMR system.


Beethoven on a Document Scanner


I came across an impressive (albeit potentially fake) video online of someone who rigged a flatbed scanner to play Beethoven's Fur Elise. It's not going to scan at 100 Pages Per Minute, but you never know what other benefits document imaging technology can provide!


Watch Fur Elise On A Scanner in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Need Temporary Scanning Help? Why it's better to Outsource.


If you've started the process of scanning documents and files and you're feeling like it may be an impossible task, you're not alone. Countless companies have gone down the road of using their own, existing personnel to help scan paper documents to digital images, only to realize that the task is more cumbersome than initially anticipated. The first place to turn is often to think that you need to employ temporary scanning help, but often outsourced file scanning is an even better option.

Temporary Scanning Help -If you choose to employ temporary scanning help, you're subjected to paying an hourly rate that may or may not be tied to performance. It will be in the best interest of your scanning temp to take as long as possible to scan your files, which may be the complete opposite of what you need from a business perspective.

Outsourced Scanning Service - When you use an outsourced scanning service, you will be contracting for a price per image, not a price per hour. This put the responsibility on the outsourced scanning service provider to capture your documents more quickly. The result is improved turnaround and faster access, which means more value from your scanning investment.

Temporary Scanning Help -Temporary Scanning Help is not accountable for their work. If your scanning temp doesn't do a quality job and ensure that your content is captured accurately, you won't be able to find your files when you need them later on. Even worse, that scanning temp has already moved on, and is no longer available to correct their mistakes.

Outsourced Scanning Service - Outsourced Scanning Services will enable you to leverage  the benefit of experience and process control, ensuring quality right from the start. In addition, if there are issues with the quality of the scanning work, you'll be able to contact the outsourced scanning partner to help provide resolution because they will want to ensure positive customer relationships.

There are no magic wands when it comes to scanning paper documents to digital images. It takes focus and attention to detail to ensure that a user will retrieve a meaningful image when they make a request or query. In the end, it is usually best to trust this responsibility to a team of trained professionals than a group of temporary scanning resources.

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Choosing the right DPI for Business Document Scanning


If you choose to Scan and Store Business Documents Electronically, be cautious about the DPI (Dots Per Inch) that you choose to scan the files. There are many reasons to be cautious in selecting the appropriate DPI, including the desired level of clarity, readability, file storage requirements, and the type of image you're capturing.

For most Standard Business Documents, 200 DPI Bitonal (Black and White) should be adequate.

If you choose to Store files at a higher resolution, keep in mind that there are significant impacts to the size of the file. For Example:

A Standard office Document Scanned at 200 DPI, Bitonal as a TIF will be around 41K. The File will be Readable, and should be able to be emailed and downloaded fairly easily. At 300 DPI,  Bitonal, that same file balloons to 62K, which is still relatively small, but may consume much more space as you scan more pages.  Now here is where this gets interesting, if you choose to scan the same file at 150 DPI in Color, the file size increases to 164KB. There are a few reasons for this, most of which require big words like "bilinear interpolation", but the point is that you need to be sure to use the appropriate settings when scanning files to ensure that you use the appropriate amount of storage, and don't create bloated, slow-moving files.

What are your best suggestions for DPI Settings? Be sure to add your input in the comments!


Three Keys to Going Paperless


go paperlessThe unending effort by business managers and executives to "go paperless" is often looked at as a losing battle. In reality, however, there are at least three things that everyone can do in their daily work to reduce the amount of paper being created and stored in their daily workflow.

1) Consolidate the Inboxes! - There is no more important daily task list of the average professional than checking the number of inboxes that we have. The key to the paperless office, therefore, is to consolidate the number of inboxes that we have. Most of us have seven inboxes before we even give it a moment's thought - Office Email, Personal Email, Office Voicemail, Personal Voicemail, Office Paper Mail, Personal Paper Mail and Office Fax. When we add in the checking of the Personal Calendar and Office Calendar so we don't schedule an after-hours business meeting to conflict with the Kids' Soccer Game, we're already up to Nine different inboxes that we're monitoring on a daily basis.

Before we can even think of going "Paperless," we need to consolidate the number of inboxes. If you currently have More than two email addresses, consolidate. The truth is that most people don't need more than two email addresses, and great tools like Google Voice (from the efficiency-master - Google) can go a long way to helping consolidate the voicemail boxes.

2) Sign up for Online Billing & Banking - It's still amazing how many people don't choose the paperless billing options offered by their utilities and vendors. Not only is there an immediate benefit of being able to reduce the amount of incoming paper, but you'll help save the environment and reduce your risk of identity theft at the same time.

Many people are not aware of the risks associated with Paper Mail, but the numbers tell the story, and the truth is that most identity theft is done by Friends and Neighbors and most originates through paper mail. More information about the hard numbers can be found here: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/01/id_theft_survey.html , but suffice it to say that Online is the safer bet for the ID-minded customer.

3) Scan, Store & Retrieve - Paper is one of the most frequently used of the media types that we deal with on a regular basis, and it happens to be one of the most space consuming, inefficient ones. If legally possible, scanning documents can be a great alternative to maintaining hard copy records.

With the cost of desktop scanners dropping every day, and most offices having networked multi-function devices that allow for quick and easy capture of documents to network drives, scanning documents is both easier and more accessible than ever before. Take caution in the process, however, as relying only on OCR (or Optical Character Recognition) for retrieval is still not foolproof, and you'll likely want to tag your documents with some useful keywords to help you locate them when needed.

 What are your best tips for going paperless? What are the biggest obstacles you've faced? Let us know in the comments!


Film and Fiche just can't be Found?


Many companies have old files that may include documents that have previously been saved using microfiche or microfilm. In today's environment, however, Microfiche and microfilm are no longer the standard used for archiving documents nor are they convenient for document retrieval, sharing, or printing.  The use of computerMicrofilm Reader technology has brought with it a new standard for document storage, and that is the scanned image.  If you have used microfiche or microfilm in the past you may be wondering what to do with your current archive.

We've found that while many people know that scanning can be used for paper documents, many folks are not aware that other media can also be scanned as well.  Microfiche, microfilm and aperture cards can all be easily and successfully scanned. Better yet, scanning these images into TIF and PDF converts them into useable formats that can be viewed, shared, and printed by anyone. In addition, these can be easily stored electronically and organized within a database for quick access and retrieval. 

Once your documents are converted you'll be able to easily search and review files on your computer.  Having up to date files can reduce the time spent looking for files and viewing them with readers.  Now files can easily be sent between users who need them with no problem.  Your company will be in compliance with information laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and other emerging standards. 

 There are many advantages of converting your microfiche or microfilm to electronic documents, including:

  • Reducing the cost and requirement of storing old microfiche or microfilm
  • Eliminating the need to use reading machines that are quickly becoming obsolete
  • Reducing the expensive maintenance on reading machines
  • Streamlining the process of retrieving files
  • Providing flexible use of electronic files - files can be emailed, printed or faxed
  • Allowing for better organization of files for faster retrieval.

Have you come up with other alternatives for dealing with legacy Film and Fiche files? Please share them in the comments and let me know what you think.


Scanning Microfilm and Microfiche to Digital Images


In the early 1800's, Microfilm was introduced to the world as an efficient, effective method of reducing the physical size needed to store and archive information. Now, nearly 200 years later, many Companies and Government Organizations continue toMicrofilm Roll use Microfilm as an archival solution, although when compared with other modern technologies, there are some inherent limitations that point to Digital Images, such as TIF or PDF being a better solution.

While it is true that Microfilm does give you a long-term, stable archive medium, that is human readable, it is also subject to some of the following limitations:

  • Limited Accessibility - Microfilm, Microfiche, and Aperture Cards may only be reviewed by one user at a time.
  • Physical Space Requirements - Microfilm, while taking significantly less space than paper, still consumes physical space, and must be manually accessed for retrieval.
  • Specialized Equipment needed for Reading
  • Microfilm cannot be easily printed, emailed, and/or faxed without the need for manual intervention.

Converting Microfilmed documents to digital images, therefore is a bit like converting old Vinyl Albums to MP3's. It can help unlock the content and help to make the information both portable and shareable, while allowing for easier, distributed access. The same concepts hold true for the conversion of Film to TIF or PDF.

For more information about converting Microfilm, Microfiche, and Aperture cards to Digital Images, visit Shoreline Records Management's Website..


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