Do you know your PDF from your TIFF?

PC vs Mac. Ketchup vs HP Sauce. Bristol City vs Bristol Rovers. As consumers, we’re spoilt for choice, which can make decisions tricky. When it comes to document management, the big choice is between PDFs and TIFFs.

So what’s the difference? Well, we’re very glad you asked, seeing as how that’s what this blog post is all about.

Let’s look at a few of the key characteristics of each one…

The PDF aka Portable Document Format

According to its inventor, Adobe, a PDF is “a file format used to present and exchange documents reliably, independent of software, hardware, or operating system.”

PDFs are by far the most accessible file format. Everyone has a free PDF reader on their computer, so there’s no need to buy any new software, or even faff about with a free download.

And if you should upgrade to the Pro version of the Adobe Acrobat software, you’ll be able to access all the other great functions that PDFs have. Things like links and buttons, form fields, audio, video, and even business logic.

Oh, and PDFs can also be signed electronically, so you really don’t ever have to print them and create unnecessary paperwork. Ideal if you’re aiming for a paperless office.

Fun fact: The PDF was developed as part of The Camelot Project, which was created by Adobe cofounder Dr John Warnock to launch a paper-to-digital revolution way back in 1991.

The TIFF aka Tagged-Image File Formats

The TIFF is “a flexible raster image format” – but don’t worry too much about deciphering that. The truth is that TIFFs are most often used by people like designers who need all of the detail that a raw file would contain, in order to manipulate the image. Put it this way – if you need a TIFF, you probably already know what it is.

Because of the information the files contain, TIFFs are bigger than PDFs, so they take up more digital storage room. The other downside of using TIFFs is the fact that you’ll need to source and possibly pay for software in order to read them. Back in the old days (yes, we do remember them!) every PC had a TIFF reader as standard, but as they say, there’s nothing as constant as change.

So what does all of this mean to you? Well, just that when you have your documents scanned, it’s worth having a little think about how you want to use the scanned files and which format will suit you best.

If you need any more guidance around your specific needs, just give us a call and we’ll help you make the right decision. And we promise not to use any more jargon than we have to!

Check out the tech on that!

Scan Film or Store - check out the tech on that!If there’s one thing the document scanning industry does well, it’s technology. We might not go as far as to say we love the machines we use to scan our clients’ documents, but we certainly like them a lot. (Oh, who are we kidding – we love them.)

It’s understandable that if the only scanner you’ve seen is the one that comes as an integral part of your office photocopier, you probably don’t think they’re all that flash. But if you were to visit us at our offices in Bridgwater, Somerset – which, incidentally, you’re welcome to do any time – you’d see they’re exceptionally clever bits of kit, with all sorts of extra features that make them really rather useful indeed.

You see, we may be an old fashioned bunch who believe in things like personalised customer service (remember the old lady we picked up from the train station recently??), but when it comes to technology, we’re giving the Silicon Valley kids a run for their money. Here are three of our favourite scanners (and the reasons why we love them)…

The Book Eye Pro 4

This German-built machine is the one we use to scan books that need to stay intact. Featuring a multi-angled base plate and moving scanner head, it can deal with the most delicate of volumes without damaging the binding, plus flat items of up to A3 size. Each page is turned by hand – with cotton gloves, in the case of delicate items – so it’s not a quick process, but the results are worth it. We’ve used ours to scan everything from ancient manuscripts and 150-year-old old leather bound council records to collections of vintage football magazines.

The flashy bits:

  • In-built software takes out the unsightly ‘buttock crease’ (you know what we mean, right?) and flattens out the image.
  • The same software can enhance the image if necessary, and can cut a double page image into its single page components.
  • Because there’s no need to feed the originals through a roller, it can scan thicker items too, such as art canvases.

Why you should love it: Using this bit of kit means you don’t need to have your books or ledgers taken to pieces in order to be scanned – even the spines will stay perfectly intact.

The OCE Large Format Scanner

For technical drawings, architectural plans and anything else above A3 size, this is the machine you need. It can take documents of up to 36 inches wide and 15mm thick, but here’s the thing – there’s no limit on length. So we can scan documents like hospital ITU charts and 25ft long aircraft drawings with ease.

The flashy bits:

  • Single camera and mirror formation ensures super accurate colour capture.
  • Preset modes can be used to scan non-standard documents such as blue prints, transparencies, dark originals etc.
  • Special configuration takes documents up to 15ml thick so we can scan items like mounted artwork.

Why you should love it: If you regularly deal with large format documents, this is the machine that will enable you to create a digital archive – and save yourself a awful lot of storage space.

The Kodak i4600

This is our main volume scanner. It will knock out around 40,000 images a day, which we think you’ll agree is pretty darn quick. It can do colour, black and white, and greyscale scanning up to A3 size and is as accurate as it gets, outputting images as PDF, jpeg or TIFF files.

The flashy bits:

  • Creates super high res pictures up to 1200 DPI (as a comparison, glossy magazines tend to use pics of around 300 DPI quality).
  • A super accurate alarm system to prevent more than one page going through at a time.
  • Built-in OCR (optical character recognition) software, which means you can search your scanned digital files for text in up to 50 language.

Why you should love it: This is the reason we can turn your bulky, possibly chaotic archive room into a state of the art, easily accessible digital archive, without taking several months to do it.

If you fancy having a gander at our beloved tech for yourself, and finding out how we can use it to help you create a digital archive of your paperwork, get in touch today.

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5 things you’re doing that are increasing your scanning costs

Scan Film or Store - five things you're doing that are increasing your scanning costsYou know what’s really annoying? Paying for stuff like parking. And insurance. And getting the boiler serviced. Stuff that you have to have, but which isn’t fun like, say, theatre tickets or a new set of golf clubs. But what’s even worse than paying for that need-not-want stuff is paying more money than you actually have to for it.

At Scan Film or Store we’re savvy enough to realise that, despite our own passion for document storage and scanning, for the rest of the world it’s definitely more of a need-not-want sort of a thing. That’s why we thought you might appreciate a few tips from the experts (that’s us, in case you weren’t clear) on how to reduce the cost of these services just by making a few simple changes to the way you do things at the office. So, here are a few bad habits to watch out for:

1) Printing in colour

You probably already know that colour printing costs more to actually print than black and white (or mono, as we say in the trade). But did you realise that it also costs more to scan? The machines used to do colour scanning aren’t quite as quick as the black and white (sorry… mono) ones, which makes them more costly. Plus the scanned data files are also slightly bigger for colour images, which means they take up more data storage room, which could be another issue.

2) Printing single sided

Not only does single sided printing double your expenditure on paper, it also means the volume of paper you need to store is doubled. Given that you pay for your storage by the square metre – whether you use a secure off site service like the one at Scan Film or Store, or the office space you’re currently paying rent on – it makes sense that reducing the volume you need to store will reduce costs. Plus, it’s better for the environment, which is a very good thing indeed. Top tip: set your printer default to double-sided so you don’t have to remember each time.

3) Stapling your documents

Scanners don’t like staples. It makes them cranky and they have a tendency to stop working if you shove any through their inner workings. Which is why we remove all the staples we come across while preparing our clients’ documents for scanning – each and every one of the blasted things. Which, as you can imagine, takes time. Less staples, less faff, less cost. Simples.

4) Using lots of Post It notes

Or any sticky attachment that you might enlist to add information or draw attention to something on your original document. These sticky notes also have to be removed and scanned separately, otherwise there’s a risk that a) they’ll get stuck in the scanner (see note on staples) or b) they’ll obscure something important on the pages to which they’re stuck. Writing comments directly onto the page is the simplest way to solve that problem.

5) Using blue highlighters

Actually, this isn’t really a money issue. It’s not going to cost you more or less to scan an image depending on what colours you use. You can go nuts with a whole rainbow of them, if you like. But it’s worth noting that the darker the highlighter, the more likely it is to obscure the text when it’s scanned. Yellow is also out, because it will barely be seen on a scan it all, especially on a black and white (mono!) scan. Your best bet is pink or orange. We just thought you’d like to know.

So there we have it – a few things you can do to save pennies on your document management. And we all know that if you look after the pennies, the pounds look after themselves. Which means you could treat yourself to those new golf clubs after all.

If you want to find out more about managing the paperwork where you work, drop us a line today.

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You’ll never guess what we scanned the other day…

Document scanning with Scan Film or StoreWe’re the first to admit that the document scanning and storage industry is hardly awash with high drama. It’s unlikely, in the course of any given day, that we’re likely to find ourselves facing anything more interesting* than several dozen boxes of customer survey forms, or a back office laden with technical drawings.

But just occasionally, a job comes in that we’d even risk turning into an anecdote at a dinner party without fear that we wouldn’t be invited back again. This is one such job…

“Do you do scanning in a different language?”

The enquiry came in via the website. A lady said she needed some documents scanned – and she needed them done fast. No problem, we thought, we can do fast. So we gave her a ring to find out more.

Our prospective client was pleased to hear from us, as she had a question of her own: “Do you do scanning in a different language?”

We scratched our heads for a moment. “Well, we could probably use OCR – that’s optical character recognition – and…”

No, no, she interrupted, that’s not what she meant. She just wondered if we’d scan foreign documents.

Well, as it happens we’ll quite happily scan the entire works of Shakespeare in Klingon if you should so wish, so it was agreed that we would go ahead with the job.

As always, we offered to collect the documents, but she declined: “I can bring them in, dear. Only, would you be able to collect me from the train station?”

How could we refuse?

Miss Marple and the mysterious suitcase

The next day saw us helping one very sprightly 85-year-old lady and one enormous – and very heavy – suitcase off the train at Bridgwater.

It wasn’t until we were back at the office that we finally got a glimpse of its treasures: ancient Tibetan manuscripts dating back to the 1500s.

Turns out, our client was heading to China to deliver a lecture on Tibetan religion, and had evidently (and rather sensibly) decided that hauling these precious tomes half way around the world in an airplane cargo hold wasn’t a sensible move.

Luckily, our Book Eye Pro 4 book scanner holds books carefully in a specially designed V-plate to keep the spines from being damaged, and then uses inbuilt software to flatten out the images and remove what we lovingly refer to as the ‘buttock crease’ (we tend not to actually call it this in front of our clients).

Anyway, our 85-year-old historian was thrilled to be presented with her manuscripts, now condensed into a USB stick that would barely make a dent on her travel allowance. She duly headed off and, presumably, brought the house down with her well-researched lecture.

So you see, we do have the odd Indiana Jones moment here at Scan Film or Store. Just without the bad guys. And the snakes. And the hat…

(*It should be pointed out that we do, in fact, find these things quite interesting. It’s just that we don’t think many other people would feel the same way. Which is as it should be really.)

Got something interesting for us to scan? Get in touch with us today – we can’t wait to find out what it is!

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What every office manager needs to know about data security

Flooded office... Scan Film or Store: What every office manager needs to know about data securityWhat would happen if you lost all your data? Sorry, perhaps we should have started with something a little gentler. Cup of tea? Biscuit?

No one likes to talk about data security. Just like no one likes to talk about insurance or funeral planning or what sausages are really made of.

It’s almost bad luck, isn’t it? Like the mere mention of the concept might summon a disaster, much like saying the name Candy Man out loud (as an aside, can you believe it’s been 25 years since that film came out??).

Thing is, and you might want to brace yourself for this, more than 60% of companies never recover from a major loss of data.

Now you may think that your data is perfectly secure, thank you very much – you’ve got the latest systems installed, you use the Cloud and all that sort of high tech malarky.

But here’s the thing: what about your printed data? That’s right, just because it’s old fashion paper and ink, doesn’t means it’s not data – or that it can’t cause havoc if it’s lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.

Before you give up reading in despair, there is hope! Here’s our handy guide to protecting your printed data from pretty much everything except an invasion of data eating alien life forms.

Keep it dry

Paper and water do not make good bed fellows. Too much moisture and you’ll end up with papers that stick together, go mouldy or even start turning to pulp, making them unreadable.

Keep it ventilated

A badly ventilated room is likely to get damp simply because there’s a degree of moisture in the atmosphere, and therefore you’re going to end up with the same problems, especially the mould.

Get it scanned

If there’s a disaster at your office – fire, flood, plague of paper eating locusts – you’re going to wish you had copies of everything, aren’t you? Ideally copies that the locusts won’t want to eat. Also, anything printed on a thermo-printer (like till receipts, for example) will fade over time. If you’ve got boxes of archived expenses in your storeroom, you might want to check and see whether they’re blank yet.

Destroy it properly

Simply chucking a barrowload of old box files on the recycling pile is not enough – haven’t you watched any spy movies? Sensitive paperwork has a way of getting into the wrong hands. Destruction is a far safer option, and if you want to be 100% sure no ones going to go rifling through your secrets (or your customers’ secrets), you’re best off getting them professionally cross-shredded and pulped.

Incidentally, the same goes for microfilm and microfiche. Given that the images on these are roughly a centimetre wide, using a regular shredder will at best lop an image in half, leaving an awful lot that can still be read and understood. The only way to properly destroy them is via incineration. And before you go hauling your galvanised garden burner out of the shed, it’s worth noting that microfilm and microfiche burn at 2000 degrees and release dangerous pathogens so if the heat doesn’t kill you the fumes will! Best leave that to the professionals.

Store it offsite

Finally, for those documents you’re obliged to keep in their original form for a certain period of time, we’re back to the issues of damp and ventilation. Oh, and theft as well. And human error (well, it’s not easy keeping track of all those papers, is it?). The best solution is professional offsite storage in a secure, monitored and alarmed facility with an advanced barcode tracking system and on demand retrieval services. (FYI: we might know someone who can help with this.)

So there we are – a few simple tips to help protect your data. We hope your business remains disaster free this year. But if you want to make sure that you’re prepared for every eventually, do come and talk to us. It’ll be a whole lot cheaper than trying to recover from a data security problem.

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How long do I need to keep my business records?

How long should business records be kept?“How long do I need to keep my business records?” It’s a question we’re asked fairly often – but probably not often enough.

Some people assume they need to hold on to every last scrap of paper like a demented hoarder, and the consequences can be alarming.

Our director once visited a potential client who had records dating back to the Ark stored in the upper rooms of the company’s office.

The weight of these endless files was actually bowing the floor – and, in turn, the ceiling above the heads of the poor employees below, who daren’t venture into the store room for fear of the entire lot collapsing like something from a disaster movie.

As it happens, many records need only be kept for a few years – though there are others that you should hold on to for a lot longer than you might think.

Here are just a few facts for you…

  • COSHH records need to be kept for 40 years (which is the average lifespan of a bare eyed cockatoo, animal lovers)
  • Contractor time sheets should be kept for a year following transfer to your accounting system…. but those required for revenue purposes must legally be kept for six years.
  • Accident books should be kept for six years after the last entry (or Joe Pasquale will hunt you down and break your leg*)
  • Unsuccessful quotations should be kept for one year, but for successful ones it’s only until payment of invoice and audit.

And that’s just a start! Confused? Don’t worry. To make life a little simpler, we’ve compiled this handy guide which should help you figure out what you can bin and what you can’t.

Of course, that’s not the only way we can help. Because once you’ve decided what needs to be filed and what can be scrapped, we can do three things:

  • Document storage – so you don’t have to worry about the ceiling caving in. Our facilities are alarmed, protected and monitored 24/7, giving you complete peace of mind.
  • Document scanning – to create digital records that are much easier to access. We’ll even train you and your staff to use the software to maximum effect.
  • Secure data destruction – because chucking private client records and sensitive financial data in the skip behind the office is a really bad idea.

Give our friendly team a call today to find out how we can help you avoid a storage nightmare.

(*Ok, we made this bit up.)

Five ways to save office space

If your staff can levitate you could save on much needed office spaceWhen you rent your office by the square foot, a chance to save office space means a chance to save money. But how far would you go to shave a few inches off your floorplan to help keep costs down? If you need to save space in the office here’s 5 solutions (if you’re up for a challenge):

  1. Ban Office Chairs
  2. Build Bunk Cubicles
  3. Relocate to Outer Space
  4. Install Window Cabinets
  5. Create a Digital Archive

 

Read more in detail below:

Ban Office Chairs

Yes, all of them. Standing desks are all the rage anyway. According to Tony Randall of Randall’s Office Furniture, they can even help you lose weight. Who needs to rest their weary bones? Sitting is for losers! Stand and save office space, that’s what we say. And if you can find employees who are practiced in the art of levitation, so much the better.

Build Bunk Cubicles

Most kids prefer bunk beds to regular beds, so it’s surely only fair to say that your employees will have more fun working in vertically stacking bunk cubicles than they currently do in their frankly rather unimaginative ‘side by side’ layout. And just think of how much floor space you’ll save! Horizontal working is so passé, don’t you think?

Relocating your Office into Outer SpaceRelocate to Outer Space

Not only will you be celebrated the world over for your pioneering pluck, you’ll be able to store pretty much everything off the ground thanks to the lack of gravity. Do remember to invest heavily in ropes and chains though, to ensure your supplies (not to mention staff) don’t float away.

If outer space isn’t a possibility then Elon Musk could make Mars a new venture:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/30/elon-musk-spacex-mars-mission-volunteers

 

Install Window Cabinets

When apartment dwellers want a bit of space to grow flowers or herbs, they turn to their window ledges. So why shouldn’t space-starved office workers do the same? You may very well start a trend. Soon every office block will be speckled with filing cabinets stuck to their outer walls with ‘No More Nails’.

Create a Digital Archive

Ok, we’ll admit these aren’t the most practical of solutions, but there’s one more idea that is. How about scanning your paper documents to create digital records, or storing the originals offsite? Now there’s a thought! Funnily enough, this is something we can take care of for you.  Get in touch to find out how we can help you save office space without having to resort to drastic measures.

The time Scan Film or Store helped save my marriage

Magazine Scanning helped save one client's marriageIn this month’s blog post, one Scan Film or Store customer explains why working with us had unexpected benefits…

I have a confession to make – I’m a hoarder. I still have the sticker book I was given in junior school, countless printed photos from the days before iPhones and Instagram, and a collection of letters and diaries that span most of my lifetime.

As a journalist, I also have an awful lot of magazines. Well, I did. Shelves of them. Granted they were neatly categorised – some for research, some for fun, most because they contained a piece of work I’d done at some point in the last decade – but they were taking up increasing amounts of room. And gathering dust (confession number two: I’m not much of a housekeeper). Something had to be done.

One option was for my husband and I to move from our two bedroom flat into a three bedroom house. Except that decision, when we made it earlier this year, was precipitated by the discovery that we were expecting twins. Yes, a new house would give us more room, but it would instantly be filled with cots and nappies and various other small person paraphernalia. There wouldn’t be much left over for all those magazines.

My husband was adamant. The move would be a chance to reduce our (read: my) clutter. We would have a clear out as we packed, and another as we unpacked. I knew he’d be ruthless, and I feared for my magazines.

Luckily, I knew someone who could help. I spoke to Mark at Scan Film or Store about how easy it might be to get my articles scanned so I could keep a record of my portfolio without the bulk. “Oh, very easy,” he assured me. I think he might have said a few technical things after that, but I’d heard all I needed to hear. Easy is what you want when you’re preparing for a house move and two babies, as well as running your own business.

And it was easy, from start to finish. Mark even provided me with boxes, and collected them once they were full. The magazines were carefully disassembled, and the articles I’d marked were scanned using the kind of technical wizardry that is well beyond my understanding.

Next thing I knew, I was holding a single disc containing 635MB of high-res PDF files, all perfectly square and in focus, labelled up with the magazine name and issue. I was thrilled – as was my husband when he saw the empty shelves in the study.

Having this digital portfolio has also given me the raw materials to update my website with visual examples of my work (when I get a chance) or email new editors with clippings if they ask for them. Ideal for those pieces that never got published online.

I’m not sure there’s a cure for being a hoarder, but there’s certainly a way to stop it taking over your life – or wrecking your marriage. I can’t recommend Scan Film or Store highly enough, for everything from technical expertise to excellent customer service.

If they could do such a great job with my relatively small stash of magazines, imagine what they could do with a whole office storage room or even a warehouse full of paperwork?

Schools are back – time for a clear out!

September Office Clear Out neededListen! Can you hear that? Yes, that empty, echoey sound. Don’t recognise it, do you? Allow us to remind you – it’s called silence, something that for parents has been sorely lacking over the last few weeks. Now the kids are back at school, life can get back to normal. Well, after the chaos has been cleared anyway.

Spring may be the traditional time for a clear out, but we think September is a much more sensible option. After all, you’ve undoubtedly got either a wrecked house to put back together or an office that’s been rather neglected since that final school bell rang way, waaaaay back in July. Having a back-to-school / back-to-work clear out is pretty therapeutic (honest) and will at the very least help you delay the start of actual work for a day or two.

So, how can we help? Well, one thing we offer here at Scan Film or Store is the gift of space i.e. document scanning. We can scan anything from photos to receipts, old bank statements to the kids’ first pre-school drawings, archived employee records to… well, you get the picture. Anything that’s currently clogging up dusty shelves, filing cabinets or quite possibly whole rooms where no one dares to venture.

Here’s the science bit:

  • We use top quality Bell & Howell, Kodak and Fujitsu document scanning equipment and are ISO 9001 certified, so you’ll always get accurate, high-quality results.
  • We can output digital images in .pdf, pdf/a, .tif or .jpg format, in colour, greyscale or black and white.
  • We also offer a full indexing service and optical character recognition (OCR) of .pdf documents, creating ‘digital filing cabinets’ and readable, searchable documents.

Pretty snazzy, right?

There are then three options for the originals. We could give them back to you, although that would rather defeat the object. Instead, option two is that we can store them in our secure, dry and protected premises in Bridgwater or Yeovil. We use an advanced barcode tracking system, logging everything within our auditable document storage system, so they’ll always be easy to find and retrieve.

Or, option three, if you don’t actually need your originals anymore, is that we can destroy them for you. And we don’t mean chuck them in the bin out back – this is high tech stuff, with cross shredding and pulping (the pulp is then recycled, so it’s good for the environment too – bonus). We can also destroy CDs and DVDs, computer hard drives, microfilm and lots of other things, so do add those to you ‘get rid of’ list too.

If you need help decluttering your home or office, give us a ring on 0800 008 7229  or email info@scan-film-store.co.uk and we can talk you through the best options to suit your needs and your budget (the initial chat is free and without obligation, of course). After all, it’ll be Christmas before you know it, so you need to make room for all those presents!

How to declutter your office – and boost business efficiency

How to declutter your office - and boost business efficiencyClutter is bad for your business. Seriously – it’s probably costing you money as you read this.

For a start, it takes up space. Assuming that you pay for your premises in some way, unnecessary paperwork is effectively squatting.

Clutter also makes you inefficient. How long do you spend looking for documents you know you filed “sensibly” a couple of months ago but now can’t find?

And it’s stressful, isn’t it? For you and for your staff, who are probably as demoralised by chaos as you are.

If you’re shifting uncomfortably in your seat right now, don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone! But scheduling in a declutter or spring clean soon would be a good idea. After all, it’s the right time of year for it.

“But I need all this paperwork!” you may be saying. And maybe you’re right. But do you need it languishing in flimsy archive boxes or rows of rusty filing cabinets?

Here are three things to ask yourself:

Do I need it at all? If the answer is no, get rid of it. If it’s sensitive, make sure it’s properly destroyed so you don’t run into security issues.

Do I need it on site? A safe and secure storage facility could well be the answer – just make sure it’s one with a good barcoding, cataloguing and retrieval system.

Do I need it in hard copy? If not, scanning it will reduce its physical impact without you losing the content you need.

No one likes spring cleaning, but we all love an uncluttered, efficient workspace. And at least it will be done – until next year, anyway.

If you’d like us to help you assess your business data and how it can be more efficiently stored, expertly scanned or securely destroyed, contact the team on 0800 008 7229 for a no obligation assessment.

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