Electronic (or digital) documents have become a staple of today’s businesses. Simply put, a modern business cannot expect to function, unless it has a way to transmit and receive documents electronically. Those documents, whether they are faxes, email attachments, digitally shared, or processed in some other digital form, have become a critical component of business communication, creating both benefits and burdens for the majority of businesses.
Digital documents have also evolved to become a primary method of communications, creating a situation where everything from contracts to memos to proposals can now be considered data that is bound by compliance and other regulations that are designed to protect personal and corporate data. That places the management of digital documents squarely into the hands of those responsible for communicating those types of documents with both internal and external sources, and is also bound by corporate policy. The consequence of those responsibilities makes it critical to educate end users on the appropriate dissemination of information via approved technologies.
That has turned electronic document dissemination into a costly management burden that businesses can no longer afford to ignore. Knowing the who, what, when and where of electronic document transmission is now a critical element of e-document control that should be used to prevent policy violations, compliance violations and most importantly, assign accountability to the information transmitted or received. Unfortunately, those control methodologies often come at the cost of productivity, where those controls, rules and policies prevent staffers from sharing the information needed to accomplish projects or meet their daily work objectives.
Addressing those issues takes technologies that can balance the burdens of protection against the need for productivity, all without exposing critical information to unauthorized entities, while still maintaining affordability. In other words, the challenges associated with digital documents can be costly and almost impossible to address, unless management is willing to consider new ideologies, technologies or techniques to deal with the sharing and transmission of electronic documents.
Adding to those concerns is legality, in the form of compliance, where federal legislation has defined what information can be transmitted and how that data is secured. Compliance regulations, such as HIPPA, SOX, and PCI are designed to protect privacy, as well as financial information, from interception or receipt by unauthorized individuals. Businesses are finding that including something as simple as a social security number on a faxed document may violate compliance laws are hard pressed to find solutions that will counter compliance violations, without impacting productivity.
Naturally, the use of digital documents is on the rise as businesses seek to reduce the costs associated with physical documents. Research firm Gartner estimates that in the US, $25 to 35 billion dollars are spent each year filing, storing and retrieving paper. K2 research claims that it costs $25,000 to fill and $2,000 a year to maintain the average four drawer file cabinet, which holds 15-20,000 pages. With the exponential growth in digital documents to replace physical documents, one can only assume that more digital documents will be transmitted and received than ever before.