Digitizing your company’s documents requires time and skill, but once it’s all done, you’ll benefit from the increased accessibility and security, document continuity, plus extra space to work with around the office. While digital files are easier to store, you still need to have the space to store them.
Digital space, such as CDs, DVDs, hard drives, and servers, can fill up very quickly, so you need to be sure you have enough room to hold all your data.
But how do you know you have enough? The answer depends on the size of your company and how much paper documentation you use.
Think Of Physical Space to Determine How Much Digital Storage You Will Need
It helps to think of your documents in terms of physical space. Each page takes up a certain amount of physical space, with 1,000 pages taking up about 10 linear inches, assuming they are filed loosely enough to be accessible. Thus, a single drawer in your average filing cabinet could hold about 2,500 pages.
10,000 pages would fill up a 4-drawer filing cabinet. Thus, if you have four full filing cabinets in your office, you have somewhere around 40,000 pages of documentation taking up space.
Knowing how much physical space your documents require can help calculate roughly how much digital space you’ll need. In the case of a small business with four filing cabinets brimming full with paper, you’ll need just under 1.5 GB of storage—roughly two CDs, or you could have everything added to a DVD (worth about 7 CDs) and leave plenty of room for growth.
Digital Space and Physical Storage
Four full filing cabinets compared to two CDs—the difference in physical space is astonishing, to say the least. But maybe you have a much larger company. Perhaps your paper filing system is closer to a whole storeroom, containing roughly 500 cabinets, full of paperwork that has been carefully archived away. In that case, you need over 350 CDs to hold all 250 GB of data, and keeping that many discs around isn’t all that practical. You might write it all to DVDs, but that still comes out to over 50 discs floating around.
So, what do you do?
There are different ways of storing your data, and it’s often helpful to think in terms of storage units rather than gigabytes. Your 500 cabinets could fit on a single hard drive, but if the amount of paperwork you have doubles, you’ll need to expand that. In addition, you’ll want backups of everything, which increases the demand for storage further.
Servers operate in terms of terabytes (TB), each of which is equal to roughly 1000 GB. For a smaller company with a couple dozen staff, a single 2TB server will be sufficient for the documentation you’ll be handling. Larger companies will want to upgrade to higher capacity servers, often employing several over time. Each of those easily accessible servers could replace thousands of filing cabinets, saving your company physical space, time, and money. For even more space and flexibility, you can look to cloud solutions as well. This can be particularly useful if you demand information on the go or at many different locations.
Variations When Deciding How Much Digital Storage You Will Need
There can be some variation in how much space each document will take. Some might be more, some less, but in either case, the average of 10,000 pages per filing cabinet and 2 filing cabinets per 1.4 GB of space is very much the norm. Any variation that occurs will be very slight, so any inaccuracies in space estimations won’t impact you much, especially since storage is relatively cheap compared to the process of actually converting your documents into a digital format.
If you are in doubt about how much space you’ll need for your digitized documents, err on the side of a little too much. This will not only be safer, but it will also leave you room for some growth in the future. You don’t need to overdo it, but you should make sure you’re sufficiently covered.
Examples Of Companies Deciding How Much Digital Storage They Need
Here are a few scenarios to give you an idea of how to tell how much digital storage you will need.
First, a small mortgage firm with a staff of twelve people. They’ve been in business for about 12 years, meaning they have a lot of old data they’re holding on to in case of audits. They only discard documents after seven years.
Their seven-years-worth of client documentation, including closing and loan documents, applications, and tax documents, fills up about 5 filing cabinets. This totals roughly 2.5 GB of data, which would easily fit on a small hard drive or several CDs or DVDs.
Next example: A large law firm with roughly 500 attorneys and interns. Their masses of paperwork, which include legal forms, correspondence, tax information, client data, and many other documents, take up a large filing room consisting of 2,000 cabinets. The amount comes out to about 1 TB of storage. A large hard drive could hold that, but a server would actually provide faster access and increased capacity.
Calculating the approximate amount of storage is fairly simple once you have an idea of how much space your average filing cabinet takes on a CD. To get an idea of how much digital storage your company will need, refer to our Digital Data Storage Calculator. Here, you’ll find approximate conversion rates for the physical documents you’re storing, along with some factors that might affect their digital space requirements.
Converting Your Files to Digital
Having a clear idea of how much digital storage you’ll need will help you prepare for the digitization of your business’s documents. While the above calculations are only approximations, they can help you get a clear idea of what you’ll need to move forward, such as investing in a high capacity server, establishing a fast in-house local network, or looking to the cloud for optimal flexibility. ILM can help you through this process by handling the digitization of your documents and providing information that will allow for greater precision when making your space estimates.