Paper versus digital. To be honest, we’re fans of all sorts of documents so it’s really very hard to pick a favourite. You may as well be asking us to choose a favourite child. How can you compare the tactile experience of holding the printed page with the ease and convenience of a screen based reading experience?
Actually, you probably can – if you contextualise the choice. Here’s a bit of an exploration of when hard copy files trump digital ones and vice versa.
Space saving ability
This one is kind of a no brainer. If you have lots of space and you don’t mind what you fill it with, by all means collect that paper documentation. But if, on the other hand, space is at a premium – and let’s face it, we live on a fairly size challenged island where land isn’t exactly budget-friendly – then you probably can’t afford to have more paper hanging around than is absolutely necessary. When it comes to space saving, digital files are a winner every time.
Access on the move
Remember when you could buy the internet and keep it on a shelf? Yes, the good old Encyclopedia Britannica was the ultimate in looking stuff up in the mid-90s. But not quite so convenient for travelling about. If you work from multiple locations or spend a lot of time on trains, for example, then you probably don’t want to lug endless reams of paper around with you. It’s not good for your back for a start. In this case we’d opt for digital files and whatever device you prefer to access them on.
There are times when we have choices and times when we don’t. One of the times we don’t is when we have to go by what the law says. And sometimes the law says stuff about the kinds of documents we need. For example, businesses are legally obliged to keep COSHH records for 40 years. Which means that, while you may decide you want to scan these for day-to-day use, you’ll also need to store the originals – either in-house or off site – in case the HSE asks to see them.
Ease on the eyes
You know how your eyes start to get kind of weird and sticky and a bit sore when you’ve been staring at a screen for too long? That doesn’t seem to happen when you’re reading off actual physical paper. At least not as quickly. Although there’s no proper science-backed reason why reading should be nicer or easier or more comfortable IRL (that’s In Real Life kids, keep up) it just is. OK? At least that’s our experience. So for extended reading we’re choosing paper.
Freedom from wifi
The thing about technology is that it’s great until it doesn’t work. Like the moment your internet goes down or you travel to some remote corner of the country where 3G is worshipped like a deity and 4G is just a legend. That’s when you wish you had a good old fashioned piece of paper in your hand that you could read. If internet access is likely to be an issue then we’d go with paper as our favourite.
So you see? It may not be a simple case of one being better than the other but there are definitely factors that will help you decide whether hard copy or digital files are better for your needs.
Whatever the case, if we can be of assistance – whether that be by storing your documents so they don’t clutter up your offices or scanning them and helping you create a digital archive – do let us know.