Paper or electronic filing – or both?

Do you store your business information in paper format or in electronic formats? Or both?  Do you remember the logic behind your decision about what to file where and in what format? How do you decide what to do with incoming items?

It can be very confusing when you start to think about a filing system for your business.  You have the electronic files you create; you have stuff coming by email and other stuff coming in paper form through your PO Box and that suppliers hand to you in paper format.

Electronic filing only

If you decide you are only going to have an electronic filing system, you need to be able to scan all the valuable paper business information that arrives at your business.  You need access to a scanner and have a routine so that the scanning gets done regularly. If you don’t, the scanning is left to pile up in an ‘in tray’ or a ‘to be scanned’ tray.   And then it becomes a real chore, just like any pile of filing.

Your process needs to include selecting what paper information you will find useful in the future, useful enough to make the effort to scan and keep.

Then you need to have a list of topic headings so you can store similar information in the same place each time, even if bits of information come in weeks or even months apart.  Scanning and then storing the scanned item on your desktop or in ‘My documents’ may work while you only have a few documents.  It’s going to become hard to find once the volume builds as your business grows.

Hybrid filing – paper and electronic

You may prefer to store the paper based information in physical folders instead of scanning them. But then you have the issue of finding relevant electronic information when you want to see everything to form a full picture.

You can do this by using the same list of topics or subjects for both your paper and electronic files. When you start out you may get away with a simple list, maybe in alphabetical order.  As your business grows, you will probably need to have sub-headings.

Paper filing only

Obviously this is the other side of the first option described above.  If you are going to use a paper filing system as your ‘official’ business you will need to print out everything that you produce from your computer and put the printed version in your paper files.

This will be very time consuming and probably counter-productive.  I don’t recommend this but it is workable if you really need everything in paper.  After all it was the only way to file business information before we got computers


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