Outsourced versus on-site document scanning

Outsourced versus on-site document scanning

on Wednesday, 26 January 2022. Posted in Document scanning

Today, the amount of paper in circulation is vast and many critical business functions are still largely paper-based. In 2020, global consumption of paper and board reached an estimated 399 million metric tons with demand expected to increase over the next ten years, reaching 461 million metric tons in 2030.

Despite this, many organisations are embracing digital transformation. Gartner estimates that 91% of businesses are currently engaged in some form of digital initiative. This trend has been apparent for several years but has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some companies are adopting process automation software to automate manual processes; others are opting for a paper-light approach where they convert paper documents into digital files. With this approach, organisations have two main options.

  • Outsource the digitalisation of paper records to a bulk document scanning bureau
  • Deploy automated data capture software in-house and manage document scanning on-site

In this blog, we consider the advantages and disadvantages of a) outsoucing scanning to a bureau service and b) on-site document scanning and ask which one is best in 2022.

Outsource document scanning services to a scanning bureau

How it works?

This approach sees the scanning bureau collect all documents from your offices and transport them back to their facility. Once they have arrived, the paper records are scanned with images converted into machine-encoded text using OCR software.


  • Save time – outsourcing allows you to focus on more productive tasks
  • More space – no need to store physical files anymore meaning floor space is released
  • No learning curve – employees have no new software to learn
  • Free up resources – minimal demand on internal resources
  • Reduced CapEx – capital expenditure is minimised with costs being OpEx instead
  • Quicker lead-in – get up and running much quicker


  • Long term, ongoing cost including regular transportation costs
  • No control over the documents once they leave your premises
  • Potential for lost documents
  • Hard to guarantee compliance

Our verdict

Outsourced document scanning is best for organisations seeking to digitalise documents that are non-confidential and can be moved off-site.

Off-site document scanning is also a good option if you have low volumes or irregular projects as it is more cost-effective than purchasing forms processing software.

However, if you have regular line-of-business tasks or high-volume scanning requirements, we recommend purchasing data capture software such as TeleForm for on-site document scanning.

Additionally, we would recommend you consider on-site document scanning for medical records scanning or sensitive document digitisation (e.g., financial or HR information) as you lose control of the process and there is a risk of losing confidential data.

Implement automated data capture software for on-site document scanning

How it works?

With automated data capture software, you scan forms on-site using a high-speed scanner rather than keying data manually.

As documents are scanned, the software captures and classifies information, before extracting data using OMR, OCR, ICR, barcode, and signature recognition technology. Next, a brief manual process is required to verify poor handwriting, invalid data, or incorrect entries. Only bad data will be shown to an operator in a high-speed interface. Once verified, data and form images are exported to common formats (e.g., Excel, SPSS etc.) or databases.

The data capture software is designed to be high-speed and efficient, but this process will always require some level of human supervision and management from your staff.


  • Total control of the process – on-site document scanning keeps confidential documents and data on-site
  • More flexibility – you can make changes to the system e.g., templates, rules and scanning settings
  • Long term cost-effectiveness - a fully operational system, training, and a high-speed scanner is available for under £10,000


  • Cost – associated with initial software purchase, training, and hardware
  • Learning curve - requires staff to learn the software and manage the day-to-day process

Our verdict

This approach works best for businesses with sensitive information who cannot relinquish control or organisations seeking to scan high volumes of paper documents on an ongoing basis whilst maintaining full control over the documents and process.


There is little doubt that digital transformation is becoming even more important to organisations. Each of the above options will allow you to scan thousands of forms each day, extract information from the images, and index the form data and original image for archive and retrieval.

The decisive factor in your decision is likely to be the level of control you desire and how often you need to capture documents. Outsourcing to a scanning bureau will cede control but reduce the time to get up and running and is a fully managed service. Buying your own in-house solution allows you to retain control and tailor it to your requirements. It is also more cost-effective in the long run.

For this reason, we recommend automated data capture software as the on-site installation means you maintain total control with sensitive data staying in-house.

Additionally, if cost is a factor, this option involves an upfront, initial cost with the software licensed on a perpetual basis.