For many businesses, the paperless office seems to be one of those concepts promised in the 80s that has never really come to fruition, along with hover-boards and 8-minute abs.

In theory the paperless office sounds great – no need for any more paper files, cumbersome filing cabinets or bursting storage cupboards. All documents are digitised, floating in the cloud and instantly accessible – anytime, anywhere.

In practice though, things aren’t quite that simple. Today, business practices and legal compliance make it necessary to store documents for long periods of time. There are also serious questions being raised around the security of online systems, and many businesses do not have the time, budget or ability to transfer their entire document archive into digital form.

To help clear the air, we have listed the main advantages and disadvantages of a paperless office so that you can decide how realistic it is for your business.

Advantages of a paperless office

Saves storage space

It’s pretty simple – less documents means less space needed to store them. While many of us deal with online documents on a daily basis, paper files still play a crucial role in our day-to-day working lives. If 100% of these files were online, there would be no more need for physical storage space. In crowded cities such as London, space saving is an advantage that can’t be underestimated.

Easily accessible

No need to go rummaging through the office paper mountain to find that one business record. With a paperless office, all files are accessible with just a few clicks of your mouse. As long as you have Internet connection and the files have been correctly stored, a digitised document system will improve efficiency and save a great deal of time searching.

Environmentally friendly

As the name suggests, a paperless office should produce no paper waste. This is great news for trees and the environment as a whole. Nothing will need to be printed so printers are redundant, saving even more energy. These all contribute to reducing your office’s carbon footprint.

Disadvantages of a paperless office

Security risks and viruses

Probably the number one concern around a paperless office is the security risks associated with transferring the entire document trail of your business into digital form. Cyber security software is constantly playing catch-up with online fraudsters. Paperless offices share data via online networks that are increasingly susceptible to hacking and damaging viruses. Much of the data and files stored online by businesses – especially those in the medical, legal and financial industries – contains highly sensitive information that could be incredibly damaging if they fell into the wrong hands.

Installing security software that properly encrypts data can be complicated and very costly. Most data security platforms charge by the month with prices that increase with the amount of data storage you use. These costs can quickly add up and there’s no guarantee that they’re secure from all cyber attacks.

Dependence on technology

A paperless office requires all of your files and data to be stored on hard drives and increasingly in online cloud storage. This works as long as your electronics do. If there is a problem with your online system, Internet connection or even power supply, then you will not be able to access any of your documents. Backing up your important files is always advisable but many businesses either forgot to do it or lack the capability.

Environmentally friendly?

Even though most businesses around the world have taken paper-reducing measures over recent years, global paper usage is not actually reducing at any great rate, according to Andrew Morrison, managing director at Xerox UK and Ireland. This is by no means a call for office-based UK businesses to abandon paper-saving efforts but suggests that other sectors of the economy should be carrying their fair share too.

While paper waste may be significantly reduced, a paperless office will still need to dispose of its electronic equipment from time to time. These items contain dangerous chemicals and are often made of unrecyclable plastics. Improper disposal of such equipment can have very damaging effects on the environment so make sure you dispose of your electronics responsibly.

The verdict

The reality is that a “paperless office” is currently just a buzzword. For the foreseeable future, there will always be a practical need to handle paper in the vast majority of modern businesses. Legal documents still need to be signed, wills and deeds have to be retained and even items as small as receipts will have to be collected. All of these documents will need to be stored somewhere where they are systemised, secure and accessible.

So, how can Flexible Storage help?

  • Storing your documents at our archiving centre will free up space in your office as well as ensure they are always protected and stored in compliance with GDPR and data protection laws.
  • Our online file management service makes it easy for you to retrieve and manage your indexed files, so accessibility need not be a problem.
  • Once you no longer need your documents we can have them professionally shredded where 100% of paper waste is recycled. Alternatively, you can rent our confidential waste consoles to collect all of your paper waste. They’ll keep your sensitive documents secure until they can be collected for complete, confidential destruction.

Get in touch with our friendly team today to see how our document storage services can keep your paperwork safe while saving your business space, time and money.

February 18, 2019