Many companies offer paperless technology that can help you tame the paper monster for your soon-to-be paperless home office. While many data management, document management and other paperless systems are geared to larger companies with bigger budgets, you can find paperless systems for your home office that work on a smaller scale. We'll look more at document management on the next page, but let's consider other technology here.
- The Basics -- You no doubt already have a computer with an Internet connection, which you'll need for electronic banking, e-mail and other functions. You probably also have a printer, which you can use to create PDF documents to store on your hard drive -- and occasionally to print on paper. You'll be able to save on paper with a printer that prints on both sides of a sheet.
- Scanner -- With a scanner, you can create digital images from paper documents, save them as PDFs and then store them electronically on your computer or share them with others via e-mail or on disk. If you don't already have a scanner, you may want to buy one to help reduce paper.
- Smart Phone -- A smart phone like a BlackBerry or iPhone combines cell phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) capabilities. You can use it to take and store notes, read and send e-mails and plenty more. You'll be able to eliminate bits of paper, use an electronic address book and stay in touch wherever you are.
- Data Back-Up -- With important information now stored on your computer, you can't afford to lose data if your computer crashes. Unless you've a lot to store, a CD or USB flash drive may be enough to back up data from your computer on a regular basis. A CDR (recordable once) holds about 700 megabytes of data, while some flash drives can store as much as 2 gigabytes. You'll want to set a regular back-up schedule, possibly once a week, so that you don't forget to do it.
- Security Solutions -- Don't overlook the need to protect your information from cyber-thieves with virus protection software and possibly a firewall, a program or hardware device that filters the information coming through the Internet connection into your private network.
- Electronic Faxing -- Electronic faxing takes paper out of the faxing process and eliminates the need for a conventional fax machine. By signing on with a company that provides this service, you can send and receive faxes directly from your computer via e-mail or the Web. Incoming faxes from conventional machines are converted to digital images and sent to the recipient's e-mail box.
- Other Options -- Technology is always advancing to make the paperless home office easier. One such option to consider is technology like NeatShoeBox, which scans documents like receipts and business cards, pulls key information off them and then exports the data to applications like Quicken and Microsoft Excel and Outlook.
Let's look next at paperless document management and handling the paper that you can't eliminate from your home office.