Scanning Records - Overview

Like their paper counterparts, electronic records must be authentic, reliable, have integrity, and be usable regardless of the file format or the media on which they are recorded. An 'original' is not automatically regarded as better evidence than a copy, including those made and kept by electronic means. However, the value of a record as evidence will depend on how reliably it has been created and maintained.

Before beginning a records scanning project, the first step is to decide if scanning is the right choice for your records.  This Scanning Decision Tree and the questions below are helpful tools in making that decision.

Can the files be disposed of now?If the files have no further operational value, they may be eligible for disposal and unnecessary to scan. Non-records can be disposed of without State approval. To request State approval to dispose of records or for more information, please contact RIMS.

Are the files being scanned primarily to save space?
Storage costs in a commercial records center generally are far less than the cost to scan a large volume of files, even for very long-term storage of over 100 years. In addition, State approval is required to dispose of original records in favor of digital surrogates. The process to receive approval for a new scanning process can take 6-12 months or longer.

Will the files be infrequently accessed or accessed for less than 5 years?
If the files are not regularly accessed or will be eligible for disposal within a few years, it is not likely to be worth the cost to scan the files.

Are there fewer than 100 pages to scan?
Small scans are often just for convenience and can be accomplished with little risk using existing resources in between regular duties.

Does the historic, disaster recovery, or business value exceed the cost to scan?
The use of scanning to preserve multiple, geographically redundant copies of at risk historical or business critical records as part of business continuity planning may be appropriate to protect against disasters, water, fire, theft, pests, and other threats. Costs to prepare files for scanning such as removal of staples, creation of coversheets, and formatting irregularly shaped documents affect the cost of scanning, however. Long-term digital preservation factors such as file format obsolescence must also be considered. In addition, duplicate copies may already exist in electronic or paper form and limit the need for scanning.

Is access needed rapidly, remotely, or by multiple people simultaneously? Electronic access is often the best method for fast retrieval, full text search capabilities, and cross-reference metadata. Indexing costs increase as metadata is increased, however. Access can often be extended to distributed locations for “in the field” use. Collaboration is also enhanced by electronic access.