At first glance, the paperless office might seem like a daunting, unattainable ideal achieved only by the most efficient and organized entrepreneurs. However, with an adequate amount of determination (and the assistance of a few top-notch tools), you too can have the digitized and paper-free office of your dreams.
Below are the five essentials you’ll need in order to reach your goal.
1. Reliable cloud storage compatible with tools you already use
Going paperless shouldn’t necessitate shaking up your entire routine. You can make the switch seamlessly by choosing tools that will incorporate into your existing workflow. Dropbox and Google Drive are frontrunners in the cloud storage industry, which translates to unlimited options for integration. (Think DocuSign, IFTTT, Salesforce, Slack, Trello, and more.)
Google Drive can end up benefiting existing Gmail users as well, as Drive simplifies the email filing process immensely. Both services provide a collaborative interface for group projects and start each user off with a set amount of free storage (Drive: 15 GB, Dropbox: 2 GB).
2. An online faxing solution for your needs
Faxing in 2016 no longer entails handling a persnickety physical machine. If your business sends or receives faxes on a relatively consistent basis, online fax is definitely worth looking into. One thing every faxer should watch out for, though, is getting roped into plans more expensive and elaborate than what their company actually needs. If your faxing tendencies fluctuate from month to month—or you just aren’t sure how often you fax on average—a pay-as-you-go service is a good place to start. Greenfax’s plan is send-only, but starts at $10 and might be just what you need to facilitate the initial adjustment to a paperless office. There are even a few free options for very basic faxing purposes.
In the interest of complete cloud integration, you’ll probably want to look into on-the-go mobile faxing as well. Outbound faxing apps JotNot Fax and Breezy both sync with Dropbox and Google Drive. Between mobile faxing solutions and your cloud account, you’ll be able to send documents no matter where you are.
3. A straightforward e-signature service
An e-signing tool should do two things well: allow the user to sign a document electronically, and facilitate the sending of that document. All other features are pointless if the application does not excel at either of these two. With that standard in mind, consider DocuSign.
In addition to signing and sending documents, users also have the opportunity to choose integration options for most major cloud services. As far as facilitating the signing process goes, DocuSign offers a dashboard timeline that never leaves any question regarding the document’s status and location. Reminders can be sent to the appropriate party as needed. The service also has its own mobile app, which makes it a great portable e-signature solution for on-the-go entrepreneurs in search of efficiency. Similar options include Hello Sign and DigiSigner.
4. A document scanner for the papers you want to keep
Digitizing your existing files is arguably the biggest step in the process of going paperless. It’s time-consuming, but the end result is significant: searchable documents that will never be lost or damaged, plus anywhere accessibility via the cloud. Considering all the effort that goes into this stage, you definitely want to make sure your document scanner is functional and easy to use. Neat provides scanner bundles complete with software, and the Fujitsu Scan Snap is another well-reviewed option for in-office setup. Doxie, a paperless-oriented company, offers award-winning wireless and portable options as well.
Be sure to download a mobile document-scanning app to complement your paperless office setup. Google Drive’s mobile app features an OCR-capable scanner, which is pretty convenient if Drive is your cloud storage service of choice (although this feature is still Android-only). If you’re looking for apps that are both iOS and Android-compatible, check out CamScanner and Genius Scan.
5. A shredder for the papers you want to toss
Rarely discussed in the paperless office conversation is the excessive amount of paper waste you’ll be left with after the switch-over. You can’t just ball everything up and haul it out to the dumpster—particularly if your company handles sensitive client information. The Fellowes AutoMax 130C and Swingline Style+ Super Cross-Cut are two highly ranked options that don’t take up much space in the office, and you can hang onto them to dispose of any future junk mail or additional confidential documents. Companies like UPS, FedEx, and Staples also provide in-house shredding services if you’d prefer not to purchase your own machine.
Realistically speaking, you shouldn’t expect to achieve your paperless goal in a single day, or even a week—but that’s okay! Making the digital switch will take plenty of time and effort, but these five tools are sure to simplify the process tremendously.