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How to Buy
6 tips for a "paperless" office
Many people who use computers—whether it's for their home or business — are moving toward a "paperless" office. Simply, they are tired and overwhelmed by scraps of paper, clunky old file folders, envelopes —and they want to reduce the clutter.
By Joseph Anthony
Don't believe me? Take a look at how many messages are stored in your e-mail's in-basket. Now imagine how much paper would have been generated if they hadn't come to you from
cyberspace. Many folks have made at least a partial move to a paperless office. They're doing so this way: by using scanners instead of copying machines, sendingelectronic faxes instead of paper faxes, storing information electronically instead of in filing cabinets, giving friends, clients, or vendors information on CDs or through Internet attachments instead of in bound folders. In short, they're getting greater return on their hardware, software, and technology investments. Want to join the anti-paper campaign? Save a few trees along the way? Here aresix things to keep in mind as you move toward a paperless home or business office. 1. Without paper, make sure you're backing up files. In the traditional backup system, you would make a photocopy of a document and put it in a properly labeled folder that can later be retrieved from a filing cabinet. Many people and businesses develop electronic filing systems that mimic the old paper systems,using Microsoft Word or customized programs for storing documents by type of document, client, project, or other prioritization. But those files can't just be created — they have to be backed up as well. Backup solutions can include backing up to second hard drives, to removable drives or to Internet and off-site locations to minimize the risk of loss of data from a computer failure. So, the messagehere is to have a system in place for regular and consistent backing up of your information. 2. Realize that a paperless office doesn't happen overnight. Your home office or business won't go from all-paper one day to paperless the next. It's a progression. You might start out by scanning all incoming bills into your system, and then expand to include all general business correspondence.Initially, you might even find you're creating more work instead of less — especially if you run a business. Dr. Boris Klopukh, a urologist with Urologists Specialists, LLC, in Miami, has embraced the paperless transition wherever possible but finds that he often stores medical records electronically and still prints out a copy for himself. "I'm not even sure why I do it; it's just another way ofbacking up information that I'm still comfortable with," he says. 3. You'll need to rearrange your office—a good thing. There usually aren't tremendous savings of office space when you first start focusing on using less paper. After all, you still have all those paper documents housed in your big, clunky file cabinets. At some point during your transition to a paperless office, however, the differencein your physical storage space will become apparent. "My eyes were opened when I had to move from one location to another and I realized I had many filing cabinets that I was holding on to for no reason," says Ed Branson, a real estate broker and owner of Branson's California Property in Carson, Calif. Branson estimates that he has fewer than half as many filing cabinets as he used before hestarted scanning documents into his computer. 4. "Paperless" often really means "less paper." Yes, it's possible to scan all received documents into your computer, and to store all in-house documents in your system as well. You can virtually eliminate paper faxes by generating faxes on your computer and having in-bound faxes delivered to your computer system. You can even electronically sign or...