Now that I have covered Sizing and Storage in Part 1, and Document Separation in Part 2, now we can start to take a look at scanning hardware. There are several key questions you need to answer: Can I use pre-existing hardware such as copiers or fax machines? Do I need a dedicated scanner? If I choose to buy a scanner, what features/characteristics are important?
Some may argue you need to decide on a scanning model before you dive into hardware (distributed, centralized, or decentralized), but I will cover this in the next section.
So let’s start with a key question:
Scanning Copier or Dedicated Scanner??
Scanning Multifunction Peripherals (MFPs/copiers) have become standard in most offices. I receive the same question all the time from prospects and customers: Can’t I just use my copier for scanning? In many cases, for a typical office, with typical documents, a copier can be an appropriate component to any scanning solution. As offices become more complex in the way they handle their documents, or they expand their scanning efforts to other departments, dedicated scanners are usually required to achieve the desired result.
Below are some interesting statistics provided by InfoTrends:
· 65 % of office workers use digital copiers/MFPs
· Over 50% use the “scan” feature daily
· 71% expect scanning requirements to increase from year to year
· 72% believe it is necessary to view images before processing
· 36% will require dedicated scanners versus MFP devices
· 36% believe they will need both scanners and MFPs
So what are the benefits/drawbacks to scanning with both types of devices? Below is a summary:
Benefits of MFPs as scanners:
- Leverage your existing investment in the MFP
- Most copier maintenance plans do not charge for scans, so you get “free” maintenance for the scanning function (no print/copy, no click charge)
- MFP manufacturers are really focusing on scanning capabilities: fast speeds, better quality and enhanced drivers, etc.
- Network scanning functions:
- Scan to email
- Scan to Windows Folders
- Scan to FTP
- One-to-Many relationship: all workers can use one device.
Drawbacks of MFPs:
- Contention – copying, scanning and printing may cause “a line at the copier”
- Poor performance with differing paper sizes
- Lack of color dropout (Scanning blue or black backgrounds will result in a black page)
- Lack of image correction capabilities (auto deskew, despeckle, black border removal, streak removal, etc.)
- Small Document Feeder sizes (50 – 100 pages)
- On average, file sizes are 10-20% larger
- Duplex scanning/DPI increase greatly slows down rated speed
- Black and White scanning only on some models
Benefits of Dedicated Scanners:
- Convenience – scan at your desk
- Duplexing does not slow down scanner
- Color dropout
- Superior image quality due to enhancement features
- Ease in handling differing paper sizes/types
- Larger document feeder selections (up to 1000+ pages)
- Smaller file sizes
- Ability to preview scanned documents at scan time
Drawbacks of Dedicated Scanners:
- One to One relationship – directly connected to PC
- Additional Maintenance costs
Above are all the pluses and minuses, but in a nutshell, when should you use a dedicated scanner?
- Scanning 50+ documents per day
- Workers that are constantly scanning throughout the day
- Mixed paper sizes, weights and colors
- Poor quality, older documents or when image enhancement is required
- OCR or ICR applications
- High volume copying and printing environments
- Large Document scanning
- High security environments
Now that you have an idea of the pros/cons of both types of scanning devices, now let’s take a look at the different features of scanning devices, and what to look for when purchasing a dedicated scanner.
Scanning speed is a main area of focus when researching scanning hardware. A scanner’s speed is usually directly proportional to its price, but you have to ask yourself one question: How long do you have to accomplish your scanning tasks? If you buy that cheapo scanner at an office products store that scans at 8 pages per minute, good luck in getting those 10 file cabinets scanned. Another note to mention is that all the manufacturers rate their scanner speeds at 200 DPI. If you need high quality images, or are performing OCR, 300 DPI will probably be necessary. This will significantly slow down your scanning speed, as will color scanning and duplex (2-sided) scanning on some models.
Document Feeder Capacity
The document feeder provides you the ability to load anywhere from 1-1000+ sheets into the scanner. The feeder capacity you require all depends on the volume of paperwork you are scanning, and if you are using an intelligent capture application that provides the ability to use separator sheets to split documents automatically. If you are a Law Firm that routinely scans 200 page documents, then that is a good starting point for your feeder size requirements. This allows you to load your documents, and then let the scanner do the work.
Another focus area related to the feeder is the maximum and minimum paper sizes. If you intend to scan legal size paper or insurance cards, make sure the scanner can handle them.
Daily Duty Cycle
The Duty Cycle (DC) is a rating of the scanner’s durability, and defines just how much paper you can feed through the hardware in a day. If you are scanning 3000 pages per day, you do not want to buy a small desktop scanner with a DC of 750. What happens if you exceed this number? Nothing to begin with, but as time goes on the wear and tear on the unit will begin to show in the form of jams, miss feeds, skewing, etc. This number is also tied to the replacement of consumables (rollers and pads). If you continually exceed the DC, you will more than pay for a higher level scanner in consumables over time, and your maintenance costs may go way up.
Most scanners nowadays can scan both sides of your document, but there are still some lingering models that will only do simplex scanning. Also, if you have the requirement to scan color documents, ensure that color scanning is supported.
Warranty and Service
All warranties are not created equal. Some scanner manufacturers provide “depot” type service where you have to ship your scanner for warranty service. Others will provide onsite warranty service for a specified period of time. Along with this, the time period on the warranty also varies everywhere from 30 days, to a full year. Scanner service is a separate purchase, and in some cases, can be a shock to the purchaser. A basic service plan on a mid-range scanner can cost over $1000 per year. Get an advanced plan that provides Preventative Maintenance visits, and you could be in the $1500 – $2000 range, depending on your model. Get all the details up front, and some manufacturers will provide multi-year discounts on service.
Definitely investigate the image processing software that comes bundled with your scanner. This software will improve the quality of your images, remove shading, borders, etc. Many of the manufacturers now provide third party image processing software (Kofax VRS), but several have their own built into their drivers. Most capture software also has built in image processing components as well.
So hopefully this will answer the majority of your questions on hardware. Remember, hardware is just part of the overall capture solution. Follow on articles will cover information on software selection and required features.