The Paperless Office: Problem or Paradise?

Unless someone went through the trouble of printing this post out and handing it to you, you’re probably not reading it on a piece of paper. The benefits of digitally cached information over physical copies are widely acknowledged – improved sharing, storage, copying and recovery, not to mention resource and environmental advantages  – and they are a boon for business productivity and consumer self-organization alike.

As many people see the advantages that going paperless has for actions and activities that have always been or already migrated to that level, it’s not surprising that other organizations that have long had a dependent relationship on paper are trialing paperless programs or phasing out their old methods. While the process may be a relatively painless one for many companies, there are some issues that need to be taken into account.

Doctors Without Papers
Organizations in the healthcare industry are some of the top candidates for going paperless. With electronic records systems, medical services providers can update and keep track of patient files, which increases the time doctors can actually spend interacting with patients. Additionally, a switch to a paperless system can enable doctors to use mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, to immediately review and update patient information and send it remotely to another medical facility. In an emergency where every seconds counts, this could be what makes the difference to someone’s life. Medical Technology Business Europe contributor Marc Stein recently outlined some of the benefits and challenges of paperless healthcare.

“The overall change in approach to patient records and making the move over to paperless systems is both a big opportunity for NHS IT managers to rethink the delivery of services, and a significant challenge,” he wrote. “Going paperless provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of time required to enter data, and to keep it in uniform formats, but it also can lead to changes in procedures that make overall workflows more efficient too.”

On the flipside, he noted, hospitals and medical facilities can’t afford downtime or potential system compromises because it could impact emergency health care. For example, putting too many files on a hard drive without proper server or network capacity to handle them could result in slow computers, disk fragmentation or computer crashes at inopportune times.

Gone Postal: How Would Paperless Computing Affect Business?
While many IT pros and forward-looking businesses extol the benefits of paperless computing, it’s worth examining whether such a change would hurt business-to-consumer interactions. Many people still want to receive important documents and billing statements in paper form. According to YourMoney, 81 percent of people feel better about reading statements through the mail, rather than online, and 40 percent believed that they could experience an adverse effect on their personal finances, such as missing a bill payment.

These issues are important to consider for any business thinking about making their consumer interactions entirely digital. While this could please the tech-savvy contingent, it could alienate other customers. The same goes for business-to-business interaction – while some companies may not mind digital signatures and online file sharing, there may be others who prefer to adhere to paper-based communication.

Businesses would be wise to prepare for both systems. As with any organizational strategy, particularly one hinging on digital communication, maintaining a healthy system will be key to security and efficiency. A utility such as iolo technologies’ System Mechanic Pro offers a security solution that combines both signature-based reactive and behavior-based proactive detection strategies to build two lines of defense to stop known threats and build a general sense of whether a given file intends to harm your computer. In addition to the award-winning AV System Shield, System Mechanic Pro gives you the full suite of PC optimization features found in System Mechanic, including automated PC cleanup tools and a patent-pending disk defragmenter that realigns program files in addition to data files to help keep everything organized and easy to locate.

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UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

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The Paperless Office: Problem or Paradise?