Choosing the Right Scanner
Moving away from paper is a big decision for most law firms. Once you’ve made the decision, there are some practical decisions to make, not least of which is: “What kind of scanner should we get”?
The type of scanner you choose depends on the volume of scanning and who is going to be doing the scanning.
Scanners fall into two categories:
- Low-end and multifunction (not generally recommended)
- Workgroup (2,000–4,000 pages per day)
- Departmental (4,000–25,000 pages per day)
- Production (30,000–100,000 pages per day)
- Multifunction (useful for occasional scanning of large documents)
- Dedicated (not generally recommended)
Here are a few words on different types of scanners.
Personal multifunction desktop scanners are good for low-volume, ad hoc scanning, such as individual letters or bulletins. Unlike higher-end scanners, you cannot scan directly into Primafact. These scanners produce .pdf files that can then be imported into Primafact.
These scanners are excellent for ad hoc scanning. The more powerful models in this range are very good for low-volume scanning of case materials and are generally appropriate for smaller firms and sole-practitioners.
These scanners are appropriate for firms with enough volume to warrant dedicating one or more staff to scanning, naming, and organizing case materials.
These are heavy-duty scanners for medium and large firms with centralized scanning services. A machine of this type would usually be used by a single staff member devoted to scanning, with other staff naming and organizing the scanned documents.
Departmental multi-function copiers
Multi-function copiers (MFCs) are not appropriate as a primary scanner in any but the smallest firms. Because staff also print from these machines periodically all day, it would be impossible to scan documents uninterrupted. Also, scanning using an MFC requires extra steps because the documents cannot be scanned directly into Primafact. However, these machines can be very good for scanning large documents (such as 600-page medical reports). Having an MFC may justify a less expensive choice for your primary scanner.
Dedicated network scanners
These scanners are a fairly recent innovation. They have the power of a low-end workgroup scanner (about 20 pages per minute) and are a good solution if everyone in the office needs to do ad hoc scanning.
Determining your scanner workload
The best way to determine the scanner you need is to measure your daily duty cycle, which is the approximate number of pages you will scan per day.
Experience has taught us that lawyers rarely realize how many pages they process, but there is a simple way to determine the approximate number: A banker’s box typically holds about 1,000–1,500 pages.
So, ask yourself the following question: “How many new cases (assuming an average of one banker’s box per case) does the firm take on each month?”
If the answer is 12, then budget for 12 banker’s boxes, or as many as 18,000 pages per month, which is just under 1,000 pages per day. If the person responsible for scanning has other duties and only scans two or three days a week, you will need to have a scanner that can support a higher daily duty cycle, say between 1,500 and 2,000 pages.
Of course, some cases require many banker’s boxes for all the associated materials, such as a brain injury case, which may require as many as 40–50 banker’s boxes, or a class action, which may use 75–100 or more.
Choosing your scanner
There are four major scanner manufacturers: Canon, Fujitsu, HP, and Kodak. All four have excellent products.
With the exception of HP, all the manufacturers categorize their products as workgroup, departmental, or production; however, there is no consistency about where one category ends and the next one starts.
HP and Kodak have fully embraced the idea of using the daily duty cycle to select a scanner and this number is given for all their models. Unfortunately, Fujitsu and Canon only mention this number on a few of their models.
- Make sure the scanner you select has a TWAIN interface
- When reading specifications, be aware that 90% of your scanning will be in black and white at 300 dots per inch (dpi) in simplex (single sided) mode
- You will need to scan in colour. If the scanner you choose will not handle colour, you can choose to get a low-end colour model to supplement the black and white model (note that you can attach more than one scanner to a single workstation)
- Your primary scanner should scan at least 20 pages per minute. Be aware that scanning speed is often given for a resolution of 200 dpi. Since you will be scanning at 300 dpi, the actual speed will be about 60%–75% of the rated speed
- Your primary scanner should have a feeder that can handle 30 pages or more
- Make sure the scanner you choose will handle duplex scanning (scanning both front and back), as this is an important feature
- Check the warranty. Only Kodak has a standard three-year warranty; the rest offer one year (which you may be able to upgrade to three years at a cost)
Generally we don’t recommend specific scanners – that is the job of your IT provider. The following models are popular with our customers, and, with the exception of the ScanSnap, popular with us.
This model has been around in one form or another for well over a decade. It is a favourite with many of our customers. The combination flatbed and straight-path Auto Document Feeder (ADF) make for reliability and versatility with a small footprint.
This is another popular scanner that has been around for a long while. It is robust, reliable, and fast, and is suitable for high-volume. At 60 pages per minute (at 200 dpi), a banker’s box worth of documents can be scanned in less than half an hour (even at 300 dpi, the preferred scanning resolution).
This scanner takes up very little space, which is deceptive, because it is a very fast scanner (50 pages per minute at 300 dpi) and has a feeder capacity of 70 sheets. Because of its small size, it is a very nice scanner to have sitting on your desk – convenient and fast, yet unobtrusive.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap gets special mention because it is a very popular low-end scanner that is very attractive if you are budget-conscious. We do not recommend it because it does not have a TWAIN interface and thus cannot scan directly to Primafact.
If you decide to go with a ScanSnap for ad hoc scanning, be aware that users will have to perform an extra step: the ScanSnap saves .pdf files to the hard drive and then those files have to be imported into Primafact.