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Document Scanner Buying Guide

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo

Document scanners allow you to create a digital archive and ditch the filing cabinet.

Businesses are trading in their filing cabinets that are filled with files from who knows how long ago and using document scanners to scan and store their important documents. By using a document scanner for your business, you open up more space in your office, you can bolster the security of sensitive information, plus you have an electronic copy of critical documents that will not be irretrievably lost. 

How to choose a scanner for your small business

To help you choose the best document scanner for your business, there are some key questions you want to ask yourself that will help you effectively narrow your search. 

What do you need to scan?

The type of scanner you select should be able to easily scan the types of documents you need to digitize and render clear, crisp images. Are you scanning paper documents and receipts? Do you need to scan photo identification? Are you planning on scanning photographs?

The items you plan to scan should be the primary consideration when selecting a scanner. Most document scanners are capable of handling paper records, receipts and photo identification with ease.

To scan photographs, though, you'll need a scanner designed specifically for images. Photo scanners offer higher resolution and enhanced color, preserving the appearance of photographs when rendered digitally.

How many documents do you intend to scan?

If you plan to digitize paper archives, you will need a high-volume document scanner. High-end document scanners usually come with an automatic feeder that can digitize large amounts of paperwork without requiring close supervision, allowing you to create a digital archive of your files. 

If you plan to scan documents occasionally, though, you'll be better served with a less expensive model. Depending on your needs, there are portable document scanners that do the job, as well as smartphone applications that use your phone's camera to digitally recreate documents. [Interested in learning more about document management software? Check out our reviews and best picks.] 

Do you need optical character recognition?

Optical character recognition (OCR) allows your computer to easily read the text in your documents. OCR makes it easy to organize, search for and format your scanned documents. OCR is generally an industry-standard feature included in most modern document scanners, and it can be a huge timesaver for businesses. 

What operating system are you using?

It's critical that the document scanner you're considering purchasing is compatible with the operating system you use. Most document scanners work well with PC software, while fewer are available for Mac. If your business uses Mac OS, verify with the sales rep or the manufacturer that the document scanner you are considering is compatible. (Even if the scanner isn't immediately compatible with Mac OS out of the box, you can install third-party drivers, however, these can sometimes reduce functionality and hamper performance.)

Which type of image sensor do you need?

A contact image sensor is the less expensive and more compact option. However, it will struggle to adequately scan wrinkled paper or bound pages. Buying a charge-coupled device eliminates this problem, but the scanner will take up a substantial amount of space and cost far more.

What resolution do you need?

If you're only scanning documents, the standard 600 to 1,200 dpi will do. If you're scanning photos, you'll need at least 2,000 dpi. However, be prepared to pay substantially more for a higher-dpi scanner.

What color depth do you need?

Like resolution, low color depth is OK if you're only scanning documents. For photos, you should aim for at least 48-bit color depth.

Do you need USB connectivity?

Many modern features wirelessly connect to your devices; however, USB connectivity is still good to have as a backup option. Alternatively, if you want a printer that doesn't connect wirelessly, you can choose USB connectivity over other types of connections.

Are the customer reviews good?

As with any product, specifications are but one element of the overall solution. Without an abundance of positive customer reviews, good specs don't mean much.


Editor's note: Are you looking for a document management solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Image Credit: smolaw11 / Getty Images
Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo Contributing Writer
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional and contributing writer. She has worked with businesses large and small to help them drive revenue through integrated marketing campaigns and enjoys sharing her expertise with our audience.