7 Limitations of Paper Documents—Get Off Paper in 2021

Posted by MESHDS on Dec 14, 2020 3:11:00 PM

For centuries, paper documents anchored the world when it came to record-keeping and business communication. Fifty years ago, there were simply no alternatives to paper documents. Businesses stored vital records in stacks of paper files. 

As we progressed into the 21st century, we realized that retaining ever-increasing stacks of paper records is not just tiresome and cumbersome—it’s unsustainable. We leaned into this growing discontentment with paper as digital technologies moved into the workplace and then into our homes. Hard drives, a fraction of the size of filing cabinets, could retain thousands of digitized documents. But digital wasn’t widespread enough to be comfortable. People didn’t trust the digitalverse at first.

In recent years, the disadvantages of paper as a document management resource are more glaringly visible as newer technologies overtake physical records management. The nail is mostly in the coffin for paper. Here we will list its limitations (easily overcome with a document management system).

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Paper documents take up a great deal of space

For a small enterprise, it may be feasible to store a handful of paper documents. However, as the business grows, storage space either runs short or is just too expensive. Moreover, bulky filing cabinets not only lead to physical clutter in the workplace but can also affect employee productivity and hamper free thinking. A cluttered, uninspiring office environment is certainly not ideal. Moreover, paper isn’t cool. The younger set entering the workforce hasn’t used paper since kindergarten—when they learned to use scissors by cutting it up. They went right to ChromeBooks and eReaders and Smartboards. They used the Google Suite. Paper was for art class.

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Paper documents are expensive to maintain

Real estate is expensive. Compliance regulations still, at the moment, require organizations to retain critical records in paper format for a specified duration. This means the number of paper documents the organization must store increases with time. Eventually, the cost of storage is bound to become prohibitive. Many organizations opt for off-site storage once they run out of space in their own offices. But if this new storage space is far away from your office location—another concept fading away in 2021!—it is time-consuming and expensive to transport the required documents back to the office. 

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Stored Paper documents are not accessible

One of the primary disadvantages of a traditional paper filing system is the time it takes to access documents. An employee will spend a significant amount of time to retrieve a particular paper record stored in a massive paper filing system. It might take even longer if storage is off-site. Electronic record storage, on the other hand, provides instantaneous access to information. Faster data access time increases the productivity of managers, analysts, accountants, and other workers who access the data frequently. 

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Distributing paper documents causes delays

Relevant stakeholders don’t want to wait on paper. What happens if several departments work on one paper document collaboratively? They circulate multiple photocopies, make amendments on their copies, and then reshare their versions with the others before a final version is typed out or reprinted. It is a tiresome process which not only takes time but also reduces productivity, especially when it becomes a regular occurrence. This drawback is easy to overcome with digitization. Electronic document management systems have a centralized environment where authorized users collaborate easily through granted access and track changes.

Paper documents are prone to damage over time

It is not as if digital documents are utterly indestructible. But a lot more can go wrong with paper records! Papers can easily get lost, misplaced, or stolen. A fire or natural disaster could mean the loss of essential information. If you don’t have back-up copies, once the files are destroyed or lost, there is no way to retrieve the old records. Paper-based back-ups are costly. Natural disasters and extreme events cause damage—but the inevitable passage of time also causes the paper to turn yellow, the ink to fade, and both to disintegrate. 

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Paper documents are not easy to secure

Regardless of size, all organizations must protect data as it is the most valuable asset. One of the prime information security risks for businesses is physical records—because printed documents are difficult to secure against unauthorized access, loss, or damage. It is easier to safeguard digital records with a robust document management system, encryption technologies, and password protection. Digital records are backed up on external hard disks or electronic devices. Cloud storage is also an affordable option for long-term retention. The possibility of unauthorized, mistaken, or even fraudulent access to paper-based documents is much higher as compared to digital records. 

Paper documents are not environmentally friendly

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown in importance over the last few years. Paper is made by chopping down trees. We need trees to clean the air we pollute in myriad other ways. Heavy paper usage will not do much to boost your green credentials! As 'green' trends gain momentum in the coming years, it is advisable to adopt environmentally-friendly policies as early as possible. Paperless practices, digital storage, and cutting down on unnecessary printing will save your business money and make your brand more appealing to environmentally conscious customers (many of whom will only work with companies that they perceive as green).

Go paperless now!

Companies are dumping paper and jumping on the digital bandwagon faster than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 acted as an accelerator pedal. It is no longer a matter of if, but when organizations choose to go paperless. Firms that have already taken up this initiative are likely to perform better as digitization cuts costs significantly and improves productivity. Digitized record storage will soon be the norm and not just the better option. 

Don’t be constrained by the limitations of paper

Break away from the limitations of paper documents right now and invest in digital document management solutions. MES offers a range of document scanning, document management, and business process improvement solutions to help your business go paperless

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