Document Scanning: The Complete Guide (2019)

David Dornan - Digitisation and Document Scanning Services, Abergower.


This is your complete guide to everything you ever needed to know about Document Scanning!

I’ve spent weeks looking at every question people have about document scanning and scanners and I’ve answered those questions right here, and, to make it easy for you, I’ve put them all into sections with images so you can find exactly what you’re looking for from one of the filters below.

I'll also be regularly updating this article with anything else that comes up in the future making this the only document scanning guide you'll need.

So, if there’s anything you want to know about Document Scanning, then you’ll find it here.


What is document scanning?

Document scanning is quite simply taking paper documents, and converting them into digital images that are available on your computer. This in an alternative to having a bulky filing system that takes up valuable office space, poses a data protection security risk and can take a lot of time to find what you want.

With scanned documents, you can keep these in encrypted data files for greater security, find exactly what you want quickly, by searching for specific keywords and also claim back office space that you’ve lost to filing cabinets, boxes and folders over the years. 

document scanner


What does it mean to scan a document?

The image above shows a document scanner which would be linked up to a PC. When a piece of paper is placed on the scanner, the scanner reads the paper document and transfers the image on the paper to the computer screen. This can then be saved for future use, emailed to someone, used on a website or even printed out again if a paper copy is ever desired. 


What is the purpose of scanning documents?

The main purpose of scanning a document is so that paperwork is stored digitally. There are many different reasons for someone to do this.

Document scanning allows you to keep a digital backup of a file, files can be accessed remotely so you don’t need to carry them with you, scanned documents can be sent immediately via email.

Scanning documents means you don’t need to worry about the security risk posed by documents lying around an office or being misplaced. As they’re stored digitally, they can only be accessed by those you want to have access to them.

It’s not just written documents that can be scanned. Images such as old photographs, magazines etc can also be scanned to protect and bring out the quality in them. This means e.g. an old family photo album can be scanned and saved without worry and the images can be shared with family all over the world at the click of a button.


What are the benefits of scanning documents?

Filing documents has many risks associated with it. What happens if someone takes a file out of a cabinet and doesn’t put it back exactly where it belongs, or mistakenly takes it home or accidentally disposes of it?

Document scanning provides users with quick, easy, secure access of data preventing the loss or damage of sensitive information. It also saves lots of space and time when it comes to storing and searching for data.




Why would you want to scan your documents?

Document scanning has many convenience and cost benefits. Quick and easy access to data improves staff productivity because there’s no need for people to go hunting for information.  This report  from McKinsey explains how employees can spend over 10 hours a week searching for information and hardcopy files are signifcantly more difficult to find than electronic files where you just hit CTRL + F.


Also, because more than one person can access a file at a time which means there’s no need for someone to wait on someone else finishing with a document before they can get on with their work.

Document scanning reduces the need for filing cabinets, which opens up more office space that can be utilised for other things. It also reduces expensive print costs.

Information is also kept secure when scanned because only those who you allow access to specific files and folders can see it.


What is the average cost of scanning documents to a business?

Document scanning companies price jobs based on the number of pages that need scanned and usually bigger jobs will have a reduced cost per page.  If documents can be fast scanned e.g. pages in a filing cabinet, then the cost may be around between 2p-4p per page.

If books require scanned this is a longer process and usually has a higher cost involved.

There are other considerations that need to be taken into account such as transport, storage, shredding, method of return of the image data, overall timescales of the project and size of the project.  

There are ways the client can reduce the cost of the work and this includes preparing all documents by removing all clips staples and attachments. Ensuring all pages are unfolded and in the correct orientation.

A cost-effective project would have a defined volume of work over an agreed timetable which would allow a smooth production process and both parties to review project deliverables and outputs to a measurable target. Reduction in pick-ups required of original material. The client having all work prepared for uplift in clearly defined boxes. A manifest produced by the client of work available and ready to be picked up is very helpful as all parties then know the composition of the work.

If you want to scan a few documents you may be able to do this at your local library or you can buy a home/office scanner can from £100-£200 however this will not be suited to bulk scanning jobs. 


How do I scan a document?

If you’re scanning documents at home, you can use different tools.

You can use a PC or Mac with a scanner or you can use the built-in Notes app on your iPhone to scan documents.

Android users can use the scan feature that appears on Google drives.

For a step by step guide on exactly what steps to follow, check this great guide on Wikihow which has images on exactly what to do and how to do it.




How do scanners work?

Scanners send a beam of light onto the image you are scanning. The light is then reflected on to a sensor that detects the colours of light. Those colours are processed to create the digital image.

This Image and text capture allow the user to save information to a file on your computer that you can edit or enhance, print out, share online or put on a webpage.

For more information on exactly how different types of scanners work, this excellent article from Jeff Tyson at will give you some great technical insight. 


What is digitisation?

Digitisation is the process of changing from a paper-based system to a digital system. This means that records and files are no longer kept in cabinets and folders but on an electronic database stored on a computer. By doing this, records become more secure, easier to find, at less risk of loss or damage and don't take up a large amount of office space or storage. 

For more information, check out this top article at Workingmouse.


What is the difference between digitisation and digitalisation?

Where digitisation is the process of changing from a paper-based system to a digital system for creating and storing records. This is one example of digitalisation. Digitalisation is when digital technologies are used to improve business processes. The digitisation of records is just one of these tools. Other examples of digitalisation include using key card scanners for security instead of a security guard or using email marketing instead of the postal service. 

Can I scan a whole book?

Yes, however, this isn't a straight forward task. You can do this by either

A) Scanning each page individually on a flatbed scanner but that will usually be very time consuming and often make pages look very uneven.

B) Destroying the book by tearing the pages out and feeding them into a scanner that accepts the document size. (Not recommended!)

C) Arranging to have this done at a book scanning specialist such as the one shown below:

Not all document scanning companies will also be to scan books so check with them first. Here is an example of a scanned book. This priceless version of Dante's Divine Comedy from 1497 has been professionally scanned by Abergower.



Can I take a picture of a document instead of scanning it?

Yes. It is possible to take a picture with a high-quality camera phone or tablet however this is usually only useful for 1 or 2 pages and it takes time to steady, focus and edit each picture. You also need to ensure the light and everything is good enough to capture all the desired detail. Taking 20 photos of a book and trying to send them all in the correct order after editing can prove very challenging and time consuming.

There are excellent mobile apps such as Camscanner that help make scans much easier and better quality for phone users scan. The auto-enhance function and advanced text recognition (which means no more typing!) are just a few of the functions of the app.


Where can I scan documents?

For a few sheets you may be able to get this done at your local library so why not contact them to see if they can help?

For bulk document scanning there are many companies that can help. 

Many companies will arrange the pickup, scanning, return or shredding of your original documents.


How do I scan documents to PDF?

There are different packages for creating and viewing PDF files online but Adobe Acrobat Reader is one I’ve personally found very easy to use. It’s also free!

To scan a document and save it as a PDF using Adobe Acrobat, simply download it for FREE from here

Then follow these easy instructions on how to save the scan as a PDF:
How to save a scanned document as a PDF.


What are other advantages of scanning documents?

Images which are digitised can then be included on emails, messages etc. Old materials can be captured accurately and enhanced using graphics applications such as these pictures that Abergower have enhanced below:



Scanners are also more environmentally friendly than printers because rather than using paper and ink cartridges they’re simply shining light and storing an image.


How safe is document scanning?

Document Scanning is usually a very safe process when bulk scanning documents but there are some risks. Damage can usually be traced to staples and tape being left in the document and folds in the paper resulting in scanner jams.

However, there are measures in place at some companies to prevent this. Jackie Reilly who is in charge of scanning services at Abergower says: “The quality of the scanner and the preparation is key. Abergower has over 99.99% success on scanning all documentation because we prepare each sheet before scanning. Our scanners also act as a failsafe and detect anything and won’t scan a document if there’s anything that could cause a jam and damage the file. Abergower’s scanning processes can actually improve existing documents that were already damaged as they are then edited to ensure a high-quality finish.”


How secure is document scanning?

Document Scanning means files can be saved on a search database which requires logins and passwords to enter. This prevents hard copies of files lying around and potentially being misplaced, lost or stolen. Forbes published a report from McAfee and Xerox outlining that 51% of people interviewed say they can print and scan confidential information at work but over half of them (54%) admit to not always following correct protocol. The report also highlights that scanners and printers are just as vulnerable to hacks and viruses as any other device. Having a specialist scanning company can eliminate much of the risks associated with workplace document scanning as details are already secure on an encrypted database. Ingram Micro,discuss many more of the security dangers associated with document scanning in this great article.


What is OCR?

OCR is a term that stands for Optical Character Recognition. This is a type of computer program that translates images containing text into computer editable text. Without OCR, your computer won't allow you to search for or edit the text within an image.


Can images scan?

Yes. Some scanner devices and apps are more suited to scanning images. The detail in images used by low resolution scanners can affect the quality of the image. Using a scanner which has at least 300 dpi will be much more likely to produce the type of quality you’d expect from a scan.


How much storage does a scan take?

Catalyst advise that the average document size of Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is usually between 54kb and 75kb,  and averaged out at 65kb per file. 

This means that for 100,000 files, you could expect to require around 6 gb storage.

If the files contain images though, and in particular detailed scanned images, then this can be significantly higher. 100k files containing files with images up to 10mb which would be closer to 900-1000 gb.

It all comes down to the type of file, images and the detail in them but your document scanning supplier should be able to give you an estimate before hand. 


How accurate is document scanning?

Document Scanning can usually provide incredibly accurate results. Abergower use validation and verification processes that ensure 99.98% accuracy for all data captured through document scanning. This result can vary depending on the quality of the equipment a company uses.


How long does it take to scan documents?

Although this depends on the type of scanner, the effectiveness of the staff and the condition of the documents, scanning documents can take as little as 1-2 seconds per page.

There are some processes that can help speed the process along to allow clients to get the results when they need it.


Can I prioritise what gets scanned first ?

Some document scanning companies use systems like the easy-forward™ dashboard from Scan-Optics. This allows clients to enquire on their projects in real time and offers them the ability to prioritise their inbound capture requirements as they require. Check prior to booking any document scanning services to see if this will be provided.


Is document scanning GDPR compliant? 

If you are allowed to store the information you have on paper, then it's usually ok to store it digitally. You just need to be careful that you're not arranging for documents to be scanned that you are no longer permitted to hold. You should also ensure the scanning company picks up and collects the data themselves and are certified to ISO standards. This is because anyone who handles the data at any point should be ISO compliant. If a company uses a third party to pickup and collect sensitive data then YOU could be in breach of data protection regulations.


What are the best document scanner apps?

GBG-idscan is a great app for scanning passports and faces etc that will provide super-accurate proof of identity in seconds providing a first class security measure.

Scanbot Pro is another excellent app. It crops accurate, has superb quality, recognises text to a solid standard and you can even save your scans as a PDF.

Giohosoft have a trusted record in the software solutions market and have put together a great article on their 7 best document scanners for android device here.


What are the best document scanners?

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Color Duplex Desk Scanner features here in this article by The Balance, as the best desktop scanner in 2019. The author, Beverly Bird has also penned this excellent article of the 8 best document scanners depending on what you need them for.  

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 is available here from thescannershop.

If you're looking to get into document scanning as a business, large format scanners, microfilm scanners and book scanners are all available at Allied Images who also provide software  



What is ISO 27001? 

ISO/IEC 27001 specifies a management system that is intended to bring information security under management control and gives specific requirements. Organisations that meet the requirements may be certified by an accredited certification body following successful completion of an audit.



Can I scan documents with my phone or tablet?

Yes, you can do this by taking a photo and adjusting it or using a scanner app.  It is possible to take a picture with a high-quality camera phone or tablet however this is usually only useful for 1 or 2 pages and it takes time to steady, focus and edit each picture. You also need to ensure the light and everything is good enough to capture all the desired detail. Taking 20 photos of a book and trying to send them all in the correct order after editing can prove very challenging and time consuming.

There are excellent mobile apps such as Camscanner that help make scans much easier and better quality for phone users. The auto-enhance function and advanced text recognition (meaning no more typing!) are just a few of the functions of the app.


Which companies offer bulk document scanning services?

If the job is too big, you don't have the time or the facilities etc then Abergower can do this for you. Abergower have scanned documents for the likes of the United Nations, City of Westminster, The British Library, Ford, Morgan Stanley and many more so you know you're in safe hands. The business have scanning sites in three continents and have years of experience delivering high end reliable results to the highest industry standards. Get in contact for a competitive quote. 



How do I know which document scanner is best for me? has recently released their article on the best document scanners of 2019. Tech pro Desire Athow, has put together a solid article that asks multiple choice questions on what your own needs are such as Apple/Android, home or office, budget etc as shown below and makes an impartial recommendation from the information provided. This helps you get the perfect scanner that suits your own individual needs.   



Where can I find heritage scanning services or historical archive scanning services?

Abergower provide Heritage and historical have also scanned historic documents such as the historic Paisley Flower Society book and this original 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy for the University of Sydney which featured a sketch by a celebrated renaissance artist in the back.

This amazing Dante scanned book is visible here

Heritage Scanning


Missed anything else you want to know?

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