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Going Paperless Is Still in the Future at Many Businesses Companies that thing document management systems are still too expensive don't know how much paper files cost.

By Matt Peterson Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Let's be honest—there are really only two kinds of paper that are still relevant in our modern society:

1. Cash, though the need for paper currency is quickly disappearing with electronic transactions both large and small.

2. Toilet Paper, or is it more polite to call it "bathroom tissue''?

Cash still serves as a medium of exchange around the globe and continues to dominate in small transactions. Even with hip inventions like bitcoin and electronic wallets, few people want to sheepishly hand their debit card to the clerk at the local 7-Eleven to purchase that $1.25 Diet Coke refill.

Related: How to Share Documents in the Cloud, Securely

Aside from the French, who have been working on a replacement for bathroom tissue through a means that involves high powered (and hopefully warm!) water nozzles, does anyone truly want to go completely paperless? Here's one vote for the continual production of hygienic paper! Remember the Emma Paperless Future video?

In the business world, "going paperless" is so cliché that it makes "win-win" and "thinking outside the box" seem new and fresh, but reliance on paper has real costs. In the typical office, information is stored in one of three formats:

1. Paper in the traditional file cabinet or storage box.

2. Existing electronic files, including PDF, Word, Excel, JPEG, MPEG, etc.

3. Emails.

This probably sounds familiar because this is how most of the world still stores and accesses the files that their enterprises rely upon. Consider the following stats from additional studies.

On average, for each 30 copies that workers print, 39 percent are tossed into the trash can. Worse, printing habits of those surveyed have increased over the past five years. Those file cabinets are heavy and take up lots of expensive real estate in your office. One four-drawer file cabinet holds 15,000-20,000 pages, costs $25,000 to fill and $2,000 to maintain each year.

Related: Paper Cut

According to a recent survey by YouGov, small to medium-sized businesses in the UK waste the equivalent of $70 million per day looking for documents. In fact, reports that the cost of using paper in your office runs from 13-31 times the cost of actually purchasing the paper! Just in case you're still not convinced, it's been estimated that the U.S. spends $460 billion (yes, billion!) in salaries just to manage paper-driven information overload. That's a whole lot of money and time wasted in old-school technology.

Let's return to the cliché mentioned earlier and "think outside the box" for a moment. We live in a world where cars may soon be driving themselves and we can Google through our eyeglasses. Surely there is a better way to manage information than the 10,000 sheets of copy paper the average office worker uses per year. The "better way' and solution to this billion-dollar problem is a robust, secure, paperless document management software.

With the right document management solution (DMS), lost files become a thing of the past. Even a misfiled document can easily be retrieved with key word indexing and optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities that search an entire database in just moments. It's hard to back up a physical filing cabinet, but with a good DMS, each scanned file is automatically backed up and stored in a highly secure environment.

Gone are the days of working 9-5 in one location. Today's workforce puts in crazy hours from all sorts of places. A cloud-based DMS gives you the ability to access any file while still maintaining all security and compliance regulations, whether it be from the airport, your car, on the beach or from any device.

Security and compliance are two of the most important considerations when going paperless. Sharing sensitive files via email can mean you're liable and open for litigation. Potentially exposing personally identifiable information can be a million dollar mistake. Your DMS should offer a client portal and a secure file transfer system using encrypted protocols. A web portal eliminates all mailing costs, doesn't have size or security limitations of email and adds conveniences like tracking notification and custom branding.

We haven't even mentioned the green effect of going paperless. If it rankles you that the U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world's population, consumes more than 30 percent of the world's paper, then document management software should really get you excited.

Besides our reliance on toilet paper and cash, there is no longer a reason to resist the paperless revolution. Once you've implemented the right DMS, you will wonder how you ever managed without it.

Related: Papers Away

Matt Peterson

President & CEO of eFileCabinet

Matt Peterson is the CEO of Lehi, Utah based eFileCabinet, Inc. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet, Inc. began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations capture, manage and protect their data. 

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