Monday, February 26, 2007

What to Look for When Buying a Scanner

The “Paperless” office is the hot topic today, and there are so many choices when it comes to scanning hardware, it can be difficult at best to sort through all the models and features to make the right choice. Below is a breakdown of the different scanner features, and an explanation of what they mean in layman’s terms:

Scanning Speed

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, misfeeds, 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.

Scanning Mode

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 software that comes bundled with your scanner. Many of the manufacturers now provide image processing software (Kofax VRS) and scanning utilities, along with Optical Character Recognition Software. Also, if you require the ability to scan to PDF, make sure that is an output option with the scanner you purchase.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Document Management and Security - Continued

In my previous article, I discussed the general security tenets and how to apply them to the planning stages of an ECM/Document Management Project. The focus of this article will be some additional focus areas when examining a system, and what to look for in a vendor.

When evaluating an ECM or Document Management System on its security features and functions, there are five key areas:

This is the process in which the system identifies the user. Most DMS/ECM Systems have the ability to identify users upon access to the system. This step is key to the below areas of focus.

This step verifies and validates the user’s identity. Most ECM/DM software provides the ability to authenticate to standard user repositories (Windows Active Directory and LDAP), but this functionality is usually an additional module, or specialized product.

More and more legislation is being passed to ensure organizations can provide audit trails and detailed logs on user activity and record activity within an ECM system. Accountability is just that, the ability of a system to provide a record of all transactions and activity within the repository. This is critical for organizations within certain verticals (health care, finance, etc.). Once again, the majority of products on the market include some sort of basic logging, but there are usually add on modules for “enhanced logging and auditing”.

After a user has been authenticated, the system will grant them the appropriate rights and permissions within the repository. This is a critical requirement, as you would not want Operations personnel accessing Accounting or HR files. Some systems provide even further granular control to not only restrict access, but also to restrict the use of certain functions and features within the application. This is accomplished through the use of roles or groups to which users can be assigned.

Of all the areas listed, this is usually most difficult, and requires security controls outside of the ECM/DM system. Privacy ensures that all user activity remains private and confidential. This can be accomplished through encryption of all traffic to and from the system, and proper security controls on the workstation and server.

Security is often overlooked when selecting and planning for an ECM/DM implementation. The five areas above comprise key areas of focus when evaluating ECM/DM technologies.

Stephen Boals, CISSP

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Planning for Document Management and Scanning

When companies are in the planning stages for the implementation of scanning and document management systems, there are several technical infrastructure areas of focus that need to be considered. Most organizations will need to make an investment in their infrastructure to ensure program success and optimal performance. Below are some considerations:

•Storage – Storage planning is critical to provide adequate space and meet future growth requirements for the system. A typical 8 ½ x 11 page will require 50K of storage space. A typical 4 drawer file cabinet contains approximately 10,000 pages, and will require 500 MB of storage on a server. With these benchmarks, you can easily estimate the amount of storage space required. When performing these calculations, make sure and examine your document types to see if they have images, logos, pictures, etc. This will add to the baseline, and increase the amount of storage required. Test scanning of documents is always a good idea to see what the actual size of your image files will be using your scanning hardware of choice.

•Backup – An area often overlooked, a sufficient backup system will be necessary. There are many different philosophies on how to backup a system, but one thing is for sure, larger organizations with a large volume of paper will require a dedicated system for backup. Some options for small offices include CD/DVD, USB Hard drives or a network attached storage device at another location. For large organizations, tape drives and even tape changer systems will be required. Ensure that the device has the ability to backup the entire document repository.

•Network – If you are running your network on 10Mbit hubs, it is probably time to upgrade. Remember, all the facets of a document management system will be transferring large files back and forth between servers, client workstations, MFD scanners and the backup system. You want to invest in the fastest possible network infrastructure to ensure high performance.•Server – That old NT 4.0 server your brother gave you is not going to cut it. Processor speed is not that critical, and any recent server technology will serve well in this environment. Ensure that the server has at least 1GB of memory, and invest in a RAID Disk subsystem for fast access to the files, and redundancy.

•Clients – If you are still running Windows 95, it is time to get up to date. Any modern XP workstation will suffice, and if you have capture workstations that are doing intense document conversion processes (OCR), or are attached to high speed scanners, invest in fast processors and as much memory as you can afford.

Investing the time, resources and capital in a Document Management/Scanning system also requires a modern network to work properly. The investment in modernizing your organizations IT Infrastructure will provide a larger payoff in enhanced system performance, and confidence that the system will be able to grow to its full potential.

Document Management and Security

As with most technical endeavors, it seems that with the majority of Document Management projects, security is always an afterthought. Paper documents are an important asset to an organization, and once they are moved into the digital realm, even more attention should be placed on their security. Would you place an unlocked file cabinet with all your confidential customer information in the middle of Grand Central Station? This article will be the first on how to involve Information Security (InfoSec) from the beginning of your Document Management/ECM project, to the end and in implementation and maintenance.
To start with, as in any technical project, the three basic tenets of InfoSec should be considered: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability.


The basic premise of the Confidentiality tenet is to prevent unintentional or intentional disclosure of information. In the planning stages, steps need to be taken to arrange the correct controls on your digital documents. The need exists to analyze the types of documents that will be stored online, and who needs to access them. Any system that is being considered to manage the security of the documents should have the ability to control access, rights and privileges. Care should be taken to mitigate risk, and protect all confidential information.


What does integrity mean? In a nutshell, a system will be required to prevent unauthorized alteration of the data. In the case of a Document Management System, the data includes the image or file and the information about that file (metadata). There needs to be the ability to control who can alter data (update a record), and who cannot based on specific users or groups. In some industries (financial), the ability to write data to unalterable media will be required so changes cannot be made. In planning, it is necessary to examine the Integrity tenet, and insure the system you examine has all the capabilities to prevent alteration.


What good is a system if you cannot access your information? Availability goes way beyond just having the information available to users. It is what happens behind the scenes to insure the greatest possible redundancy and in-depth disaster recovery planning. It includes everything from having a redundant disk subsystem, to having a restore plan in the case of a disaster. Availability planning is paramount to the success of any Document Management system.
These three basic tenets of InfoSec must be a requirement of any Document Management or Enterprise Content Management project. They must be carried through all the project phases: Planning, Implementation and Maintenance.
Stephen Boals, CISSP

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Levels of Document Management and Scanning

The Levels of Document Management and Scanning

The landscape of Document Management applications and hardware grows larger every day, and the options can be daunting for decision makers.

What do we need?
How do we best optimize our process?
Do different departments require different pieces of the puzzle?

To simplify the explanation of Document Management “Solutions”, below is a Level System that can help to breakdown the different offerings in the Document Management space.

Level I – Basic Scanning

A Level I solution consists of a scanning device, either a dedicated scanner or a scanning multi-functional device (MFD) such as a scanning copier or fax machine. These devices can usually scan to PDF or TIFF image formats. A Level 1 Solution can also include basic scanning software to help in acquiring the image, and this is more prevalent in the dedicated scanner market.

Level II – Basic Capture

Capture Software integrates with scanning hardware to allow the user to work with scanned images within their Windows desktop environment. Some common features in this software include:
· Image processing (Deskew, despeckle, black border removal, etc.)
· File manipulation – combining scanned files, splitting them, page rearranging, inserting and deleting pages
· Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – conversion of images to text
· Ability to email, print or fax image files
· Annotation of image files
· Sharing of scanned files between PCs
· Keyword entry and search capability

Some examples: Nuance PaperPort, eCopy Desktop

Level III – Advanced Capture

Advanced Capture software provides for automation when scanning documents. The goal of this solution is to speed up the capture process, providing the ability to scan, index, separate and verify documents. Common features are:
Distribution Capabilities
The ability to use document separator sheets while scanning.
The ability to read barcodes and assign the information to document properties/index fields.
Enhanced image enhancement settings
The ability to index multiple documents
Quality Assurance and Verification
Automatic import into an existing Document Management System.
Basic document workflow creation.
Forms processing and data extraction

Note: Most Document Management systems have built in capture modules with some of these capabilities.

Examples: Psigen ScanHQ, Kofax Ascent, eCopy

Level IV – Document Management System

This level includes software with a variety of components or modules, all with the goal of capturing, managing, searching and distributing all types of documents. Most DMS vendors have a wide variety of modules, features and functions, including the following:
Email capture
Drag and Drop addition of files
Advanced Search and Archive
Records Management
Fax capture
Integration with other applications

Examples: Captaris Alchemy, FileNet, Laserfiche, Hyland Onbase

Level V – Custom Solution

A level V solution is composed of one or several of the elements above. These elements are packaged together to for a custom solution, and integrated with existing applications to provide enhanced efficiency, centralized metadata storage/access, and minimal effort by personnel in the task of archiving and moving documents throughout the Enterprise.

Each of these levels can build on one another, so an organization can enter the world of Document Management without taking on a Level V solution right out of the gate.

Stephen Boals

Dedicated Scanner or Scanning Copier?

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 most cases, for a typical office, with typical documents, a copier is a perfect 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 may be 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 100+ 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