Digital Data Storage Calculator

Think about the paper your business uses on a daily basis. Consider the volume of documents produced by each employee each day. Think of the paper and ink used to print, the time used to produce and file them, and the money spent each day to cover the time and resources used in those processes.

Many of today’s successful businesses have already migrated their paper documents to digital formats in an effort to improve efficiency and decrease costs–and it has worked!

Does this type of conversion make sense for your business?

With many factors, probably spread across different departments, it can be very difficult to figure out just what kind of impact going digital will have.

Here, we’ll help you calculate how much data storage you’ll need as well as the amount of space you’ll save by getting rid of paper, filing cabinets, etc. Plus, we’ll list additional benefits, provide an example of a company that digitized their data, and we’ll help you learn how to get started with the process.

Storage Calculator

To begin, think about the total volume of paper files your business generates, and how much storage space is required. Use the table below to calculate physical storage space of paper documents and electronic storage space of scanned documents.


Pages are letter size 8 1/2 by 11 inches, A4. Boxes are 15 1/2″ long x 12″ wide x 10″ deep, 400 x 300 x 250 mm. File Cabinets are 4 drawer.

These size estimates are based on actual system metrics taken over a long period of time. Storage is a small part of total system cost, so even moderate errors in size estimates do not affect overall system cost very much. After even one percent of a project’s documents have been scanned, a very accurate estimate of the per document and per file cabinet (etc.) can be made. If the actual size of the digital images of the average scanned document is 10 percent larger than the above estimate, then the overall storage system estimate can be increased by 10 percent (with very little effect on overall system cost).

These metrics are also chosen in rounded form so that system estimates come out to exact rounded numbers which make the systems easier to describe and discuss. These metrics are of greatest benefit in bringing design meetings to closure on the topic of system sizing by eliminating the need to discuss (ad infinitum) whether the average size of an image is 50 or 51 Kilobytes.

To get an idea of how to make your estimates, look at the following example of how these calculations will work.

The Importance of Data Storage

When converting to digital format, you’ll want to store your data in a way that protects it and makes it easily accessible. This can be done with either software (such as cloud storage) or—more commonly—hardware (discs, hard drives, and servers). Either way, the physical space you need to maintain your data storage will diminish significantly after switching to digital.

In addition to saving space, data storage provides other benefits as well. A proper data storage system will improve your use of data in the following ways:

It will make information more accessible. The time spent sifting through reams of paper in massive filing cabinets is one of the largest hidden costs of running a business. Even when everything is indexed and organized properly, the time employees will take looking for documents adds up to massive sums over time. Converting that data to a digital format and indexing it in a database, on the other hand, makes it possible to retrieve documents instantly.

It allows you to restrict access when applicable. Even as data storage makes data more available when needed, it also makes matters of security and restricting access much more streamlined. Digital security measures still need to be thorough, but the process requires less in the way of physical resources. It’s also easier to keep certain data limited to only a few people who have the necessary password key or to restrict access to within certain hours.

It makes data backups easier. Data storage makes backup and disaster preparedness much simpler than it is with paper. Making and keeping backup copies of paper documents is expensive, both in terms of paper, ink, and time, but also with respect to space. Backing up digital data, on the other hand, takes very little extra physical space, if any, and it can be done much faster and more cost effectively.

It ensures regulatory compliance. Not only can revenue and reputation be lost from compromised documents, you can also face legal ramifications as well. A number of industries have federal regulations governing the way they store and use data, so having a storage system in place that will account for those regulations will keep you that much more secure.

Who Needs Data Storage?

If you use any form of digitized data, you need some way to store it. Do your customers fill out online forms? You need storage. Do you input data taken from paper or over the phone into a computer? You need storage. Do you have employees? When it comes to managing payroll and tax documents associated with human resources, you will need data storage. Given the often sensitive nature of this information, you will need data storage that is not only large and streamlined enough to accommodate it all, but also allows for restricted access measures and security against hackers.

While any business that uses digital data needs some form of data storage, the following industries most commonly take advantage of it:

  • Medical, dental, and healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Retail, ecommerce
  • Mortgage and lending institutions
  • Universities and schools
  • Commercial and residential real estate
  • and more

These companies often handle large volumes of documents and data every day, and that information, if compromised, can put the business at risk. An online business, for example, will lose customers if buyer credit card information is compromised or if purchases are not properly recorded. A medical practice will run into legal issues if patient data is lost or unlawfully accessed.

Moreover, certain types of data need to be kept for a specified period of time, depending on local and state laws, federal regulations, and client needs. This means it’s vital for these businesses to maintain a data storage strategy that will ensure their ability to maintain proper records. Converting their documents to digital format will allow them to use less space and resources doing so.

Why Is Calculating Data Storage Important?

A key aspect of data storage is determining how much of it you need. You don’t want to be found lacking space, but you also don’t want to overextend either. Too little, and you won’t have enough to handle all your data, which can lead to unsatisfied clients, inefficient operations, and even legal problems as documents aren’t properly maintained. Too much, and you’ll spend more time and money than necessary acquiring, implementing, and maintaining storage devices that you don’t need.

Some smaller businesses might be able to get away with keeping data on DVDs or a hard drive. As your business grows, you might need to upgrade to a server to accommodate expanding stores of data. The amount of storage space you’ll need will ultimately determine what type of storage systems you should implement. Later on this page are a few guidelines on how to estimate your data storage demands based on how much paper you use in the office.

In addition to making your storage system the right size for your business, having some estimates about the space you need will assist in showing the overall return on your investment. Comparing your digital data storage estimates with the much larger space and time requirements of paper storage will help you make a case for converting to digital.

An Example of Data Storage Conversion Calculation

Suppose your company produces about 500 documents per day, five days a week. If you keep all documents for seven years, you will need to maintain about 500 documents x 260 days per year x 7 years, or 910,000 paper documents. This would fill up 910 filing cabinets, which would take up quite a bit of space.

Now, if the average DVD can hold the contents of 10 filing cabinets, each of which has 1000 pages of paper in it, converting that all to digital will require 91 DVDs to store it all. Knowing how much space a digital disk takes up, you can see a massive difference already in how much physical room you’ll need to accommodate all of your company’s documentation.

Of course, it’s a little impractical to keep that many discs around, especially considering the fact that your business will ideally be growing and discarding outdated documents as time progresses, so let’s convert that into gigabytes. Each DVD has about 4.7 GB of storage, so 91 of them would equate to nearly 430 GB. This is a fairly large amount of digital space, but it can easily be handled on your average server. And, if your company maintains its own website, you’re likely already using one.

Given this example, the differences between paper filing and data storage become startlingly clear. Rather than devoting over 10,000 square feet of space to paper filing cabinets, you can keep all of your company’s data on a server in a secured closet. If you need more digital space than before, it’s easy to increase the amount of space on your server, whereas with paper, you’d need to obtain heavy steel cabinets, organize them, fill them, and find space somewhere to keep them.

The First Steps For Converting to Data Storage

The first step in the process of converting over from paper filing to digital data storage is scanning paper documents to digital format. This process requires specialized techniques and equipment. Once the scanning process is complete, the information needs to be indexed and saved in digital format.

Once that process is complete, then comes time to implement the software and hardware you’ll need to maintain your digital data, and this is when your data storage calculations will come in. The above tables can help you get a good estimate of how much space you’ll need and make plans on how to get your storage system setup.

ILM will help you get a clear estimate of how much data storage you’ll need when going digital with a free test drive of our services. Please note that ILM makes no warranties or representations to the accuracy of the information provided, so it should be used for estimation purposes only. For more about data storage and calculating storage requirements in your business, contact ILM today.