Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scanning Documents To The Cloud with OfficeDrop

I work with Enterprise Content Management (or ECM) systems for a living and have an extensive background in Imaging or Document Capture.  But yet, at home I struggle to find a good way to capture important documents and keep them intelligently organized.  I have a rather nice Fujitsu fi-5120c desktop scanner, but it rarely gets used.  I tried a number of consumer-focused scanning tools in the past but none of them seemed very inspired.  I usually find that they are just too cumbersome to configure and use, even for me.  So I gave up trying for a while while and my scanner sat on the desk collecting dust.

A few months ago, while I was getting organized for tax time, I decided to fire-up the internet search engine and look again.  This time I trained my focus on a "cloud" based scanning solution.  I wanted to see who in the industry was trying to leverage online storage infrastructure to store scanned documents.  Well, I found one service in particular that seemed to be doing just that and they have a nice desktop scanning tool as well.  The service is called OfficeDrop.

OfficeDrop is an document scanning and document management solution that provides small businesses with affordable way to manage their paper and digital files. We convert paper and digital files into text-searchable documents. Our mail-in document scanning system lets you mail your documents safely to us where we do all the scanning. Our online document management system gives you a search engine for your documents, allowing you to search your paper and digital files for specific words and numbers. Folders, labeling and integration with Evernote and Quickbooks also help you get the most out of your online document management.We also now have a free scanning software to connect your TWAIN scanner directly with several cloud storage services, including OfficeDrop's.
For my needs and purposes OfficeDrop's scanning tool is what peaked my interest. The focus of this blog post is the ScanDrop software as they call it. ScanDrop is now bundled into their new beta desktop software and provides a nice way to scan directly to the cloud. Here is a look at the main interface.
The user interface is styliezed like the newer Microsoft Office applications with the menu ribbon at the top.  OfficeDrop makes good use of Folders and Lables (or Tags if you will) for organizing your document in the online digital repository.   The documents you see in this screen are actually stored online with OfficeDrop.  This is not looking at any local folders.  In the upper right hand side of the menu you can see an option to download the PDF or the original file to your desktop.  The Scan or Capture mode is accessed by clicking the scan button in the upper left corner of the menu.
Before you jump right into scanning you may want to hit the settings menu that is on the right.  Clicking that button will get you to the ScanDrop options screen where you can configure your scanner settings.  I am happy to see a good amount of control over options like "color mode" and "image quality."  One feature that stands out is the option to save a copy of the scanned PDF to your PC.  As you can see I have enabled that option and have it pointed to a "My Scan Drop" folder.  By doing this you have instantly created a backup of the document you submit online to the cloud.  Nice touch.

In my tests, scanning documents was simple but a bit slow.  In general that is to be expected given the fact that you are relying heavily on your internet connection to communicate with the cloud repository.  After you scan a document, ScanDrop provides you with a number of ways to index or organize in cloud.  You have the option to use folders, labels or both. You even have the ability to edit the name of the file, giving you total control over your indexing method.  I appreciate OfficeDrop giving your multiple ways to index.  There are many users out there that still utilize simple foldering for organizing documents.  Adding labels to the mix gives you even more granular indexing ability. 

If foldering and labels weren't enough, OfficeDrop also creates full-text searchable PDF files of the scanned documents you store in the cloud.  This means that even if you don't spend the time organizing your documents in folders or adding lables, you can still do a "Google"-like fuzzy search of your document contents.  Your results will vary depending on how clear your scanned documents are but this is a feature not normally seen in a consumer oriented solution.  Having the ability to search the contents of your documents in the cloud is a real benefit.

OfficeDrop is a good service with a lot of potential for small business and professionals that require a more robust way to manage documents in the cloud.  This post is focused on just one important aspect and that is the ability to scan documents directly to the cloud.  There is so much more about OfficeDrop that I hope to share in future posts.  For now, it is important to note that if you are looking for a way to scan paper documents or upload electronic documents to the cloud, OfficeDrop is a service you will want to consider.  Please drop a comment on this page if you have a specific question about the product and I will try to answer the best that I can.  

For $9.95 a month you can get started with 'Scantrepreneur' plan.  If you use the link and code below you can basically get that first month free.  
Here is a full breakdown on the pricing plans for OfficeDrop: