How We Traded In Our Paper Files For a System in the Cloud
Are you tired with the all the clutter and bulky filing cabinets that come with an antiquated paper files?
Well — we were.
It may have taken us longer to come to this conclusion, but after noticing how much more effective and affordable online invoicing was when compared to paper invoices, we decided to take a closer look at our entire paper filing system. And, we weren’t alone.
Like the average business, we wasting thousands of sheets of copy paper per year and spending thousands on postage, ink, and filing these documents.
Even worse? If a document was misfiled, it could our business several hundred dollars a year. And, we wasting a lot of office space by storing at least 10 filing cabinets.
In other words, paper files were expensive, time-consuming, and not efficient. We finally had enough. And, this how we were able to successfully trade in our paper files for a cloud-based system.
By being ruthless when sifting and sorting.
First things first. You have to tediously sift and sort through all of your paper files. It’s probably going to take you a couple of days and be prepared for a couple hundred pounds of paperwork that can be shredded or recycled, but it’s a necessary evil.
Chances are that while going through this mountain of paperwork, you’ll probably discover items that should have been disposed of years ago. I’m talking about credit card receipts, pay stubs, shipping receipts, bank statements, product manuals, and nondisclosure agreements that are almost a decade old. At this point, all of these papers are trash. There’s no need to hang onto them.
Here’s another reality.
Essentially every bank and financial institutions offer online services where you can view and save statements. So, even if you accidentally chucked an invoice, statement, receipt, or any other document that you need for tax purposes, you can easily pull-it-up online.
Unless there’s a piece of paper that is absolutely essential, such as legal paperwork pertaining to the articles of incorporation, for my business and various business licenses, office lease agreement, real estate or auto purchases, or a contract for a current project, you have to be ruthless when sifting and sorting through your paperwork when switching to a paperless office.
Invest in a scanner.
After you’ve gone through your paperwork, it’s time to purchase a scanner, like Neat, so that you can scan and upload your essential documents — and you’ll use it for future incoming documents that come across your desk.
Today’s scanners make capturing, accessing, and organizing your files as painless as possible. And they integrate with other software, like QuickBooks and TurboTax, so that you can streamline your accounting, business, and contact management tasks.
You can even convert your mobile device into a scanner through apps like Scanner Pro 7. This allows you to scan business cards, receipts, or bills and scan them into PDF files and saved onto the cloud.
For those of us who don’t want to be bothered with physical mail anymore, try out a service like Earth Class Mail. ECM will send you photos of your unopened mail and you decide what you want opened, recycled, or scanned. Plans start at around $100 per month, but this is a real time saver – and it eliminates all that paper coming into your office each day.
Decide where you want to store your files.
In the past if you wanted to store your files electronically, you would have to either store them on your computer’s hard drive or external hard drive.
Today, the cloud has completely replaced these physical storage devices since you can securely store sensitive data and access from anywhere through cloud storage apps..
The question, then, isn’t whether or not to store your files on the cloud, it’s which cloud platform should you use?
Personally, we’re big fans of Google Drive. There’s 15 GB of free cloud storage, but it’s the access to Google’s productivity suite like Gmail and Docs, that’s make this an essential download if you plan on collaborating with a team.
Dropbox and Box are also popular options that have mobile apps and various plans depending on how much cloud storage you need. Tech heavyweights like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon also offer cloud-storage and file-sharing services.
If you want to go with a lesser known service, OpenDrive for Business, Zoolz, and OwnDrive could be a better fit for your business. However, I’m paying attention to Storj. It’s a blockchain-based, end-to-end encrypted cloud storage system where you only pay for the storage that you use.
Organize your digital files.
After you’ve settled on a cloud-storage service, you want to think about how you’re going to organize your files.
For us, we created four main folders:
- Business – this is all business related paperwork, like receipts and agreement.
- Documents – this is where personal documents and paperwork are placed.
- Guides & Resources – books and product manuals.
Within those main folders there are subfolders. You can organize this however you like by starting with broad categories.
Here are some of the subfolders in our business file:
- Business expenses
What’s most important is that you stay consistent when organizing your files. For example, for bank statements, you would label them by month, such as “May Bank Statement.”
Protect your sensitive data.
There are certain cloud services, like Spideroak, that offer local encryption and decryption of your files, along with storage and backup. But, you don’t want to rely solely on your cloud system to protect your data.
Start by taking basic security measures like using a random, long, and unique password to login. It wouldn’t hurt to encrypt your most sensitive data on your own by using tools like B1 Free Archiver.
Moving forward, go paperless.
If you truly want to move away from paper files, then you need to go paperless. At this point, every expense, including your utilities, credit cards, and bank systems, allow you to pay or view your account either online or through an app. Just make sure that you sign-up for paperless statements so that you no longer receive snail mail.
Furthermore, tools like Due allow you to create and send invoices electronically so that you no longer have to deal with paper invoice.
I would also suggest that you get off of mailing lists. Sometimes in your haste you’ll sign-up for a mailing list without realizing that you’ll be sent a ton of junk mail. It’s wasteful and quickly clutters your office.
Get out of these types of lists ASAP.