By Fredric J. Gavin
Vice-President, Records Management, NYC Economic Development Corporation
I created this cost comparison because I’ve been confronted many times with the assertion “it’s cheaper to scan [inactive] paper records than it is to store them.” I’ve always answered it with “not necessarily so, and, in most cases, probably not.” But I’ve never had the numbers to back me up; I’ve increasingly felt the need for them, and so here they are.
This cost comparison is narrowly-focused on the argument “scanning inactive records is cheaper than storing paper”. It assumes a massive backfile conversion of inactive or semi-active records. It does not address “scan-on-demand”. It does not consider the many good reasons for conversion.
In various ways, it is biased in favour of scanning. This is because, inevitably, someone is going to challenge the foundation data, and I’d rather say “the cost comparison is biased in favour of scanning.”
The assumptions listed in the worksheets titled “Paper Storage” and “Scanning” are essential to understanding how the cost comparison is structured.
- For example, as stated in the assumptions under “Scanning”, I did not include the costs of acquiring, operating, maintaining and (eventually) migrating a content/document management system, or on-going storage of paper when required, or content-based retrieval.
- In these worksheets, you can change the basic numbers in the cells tinted in light green (everything else in the workbook is Protected).
The Excel workbook contains 7 worksheets. These are:
- Cover Page
- Summary (this worksheet summarises, year by year, the comparative costs under three different scenarios, where the cost of storage in boldface shows the year in which the cost of storage exceeds the cost of scanning)
- Paper Storage (this worksheet includes the baseline numbers for paper storage)
- Scanning (this worksheet includes the baseline numbers for scanning)
- Optimistic Scenario (this worksheet shows a detailed breakdown of comparative costs under the scenario most favourable to scanning)
- Realistic Scenario (this worksheet shows a detailed breakdown of comparative costs under what might be considered a typical or average scenario)
- Pessimistic Scenario (this worksheet shows a detailed breakdown of comparative costs under a scenario more favourable to paper storage)
Have fun, and comments are most welcome.
Frederic J. Grevin