But it’s the 21st century, and advancements in business and technology are moving faster than we’ve ever seen. More and more companies are shifting from traditional paper file folders and file cabinets to cloud storage, embracing technology as a trusted partner in achieving greater efficiency.
And why not? There are a number of benefits associated with moving toward a paperless business. Transferring the bulk of your documents to a cloud service makes it much easier to access documents when you need them, even if you’re out of the office. It also creates a great audit trail because you can see who has viewed which documents, who has edited them, and when each change occurred. That’s not to mention that there are hundreds of talented engineers working around the clock at Google and Dropbox to fight hackers, so leaving security to them can save your small business money.
Going paperless is especially beneficial for small businesses because it can bring down office expenses over time. You’ll no longer have to allot a significant part of your budget to endless reams of paper and expensive printer cartridges. You’ll also be able to downsize or pay less in rent for a smaller space once you no longer have to consider where you’ll house all those dusty old documents.
How to Make a Smooth Transition
Transitioning to become a paperless business doesn’t happen overnight. To make the switch a smooth one, consider the following tips:
1. Implement proper permissions. You must make security a priority. Cloud services such as Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox allow access control so you can assign different levels of access based on whom you want to be able to view and edit documents. For example, an HR manager could have the highest level of access, being able to view all employee files, while the vice president of marketing could only look at files for employees reporting to her division. This ensures privacy and security while providing flexibility.
2. Label documents clearly. While they aren’t paper, your digital folders can still become a heaping mess. It’s critical to have clear naming conventions for all folders and documents stored in the cloud. A legend with the proper naming structure should be distributed to all relevant employees. A good naming convention includes things like an overview of what the document contains, the author, and a version number. Keeping that in mind, each department should customize this naming convention based on its specific needs. This also helps people search for documents based on keywords.
3. Create a wiki. A wiki is an internal tool used to find vital information. Create a good wiki explaining your company’s workflows, and add to it as workflows shift so new and existing employees can stay abreast of changes.
4. Manage the process. Many employees are already quite comfortable with existing processes and will need to be retrained. It’s important to schedule upfront and ongoing training on all the appropriate software packages to ensure that employees have the skills they need to use the cloud effectively.
While going paperless has many benefits, a hybrid approach is a safe bet for certain documents such as employment contracts, consulting agreements, and other legally binding forms. You always want a paper copy of these in the unlikely event that something happens to your cloud storage provider. However, for most non-legal documents, Dropbox or Google Drive storage is a perfectly viable option.
For some small businesses, it will make the most sense to ease into cloud storage gradually, while others will want to tackle the filing cabinets in one fell swoop. Either way, the move toward the cloud is sure to be a space and time saver for your company.