Everyone knows how a traditional office looks and feels. There are manila folders stacked on desks, filing cabinets lining the walls, and a row of printers humming next to the cabinets.

There are lots of hidden costs within a paper-based system, based on the management of files, customer receipts, and purchase orders. Surprisingly, there isn’t much information describing the costs of a paper-based system. Some people feel it’s not worth noting or explaining because the reasons for going digital are obvious. Independent reports give estimates at 40% of all small businesses in the United States use paper-based systems. Others are less (depending upon sample sizes, geography, etc.). The fact remains, a large percentage of businesses are using an antiquated system.

The Paper Pushers

Unfortunately, going digital has negative connotations for some business owners. Yet, they are losing a lot of money and in some cases losing customers with a paper-based system. Why do they cling to paper? Because paper is a tangible asset, held by hands and not on a hard drive. There is trust in the physical presence of paper. Another reason is the upfront costs of paper appear to be cheaper, when in fact, over time, the costs compound like interest in a bank. More paper means more space is needed, and more wear-and-tear on printers and people to manage it.

There is a false sense of security and reliance upon a paper trail. Paper-based records are subject to damage through overuse, poor handling or fire. To avoid loss or damage, a business would need to create multiple copies of one document and store it in multiple locations, which is far more expensive than a digital copy stored in the cloud. And, paper is not nearly as secure as digital, especially when digital files are stored in the cloud.

Time for a Change

Many of these paper-based businesses are falsely led by the belief that if their system isn’t broken, then it doesn’t need to change. For them, changes will create challenges for their employees and result in poor customer service. Integration and training are common complaints for changes in any system. However, most employees are familiar with how to use computers, tablets, and mobile. In 2014, only two years ago, 75% of Americans owned a tablet or e-reader and 64% of American adults owned a smartphone. The number of tablets and smartphones has grown in the past two years, not slowed or stopped. Employees have embraced technology to make their personal lives easier and training them on a computer or mobile device should be simple.

Finding an All-In-One System

Using a single system for inventory management, sales reporting, and accounting reduces mistakes made during data capture. The loss of information during transfers of data between one system and another can cause significant financial problems that may impact inventory and sales. Small businesses can expand beyond simply going digital and have their point of sale software handle inventory and accounting. They can create important sales reports and inventory alerts before getting the paperwork back from the accountant. Best of all, it keeps everything under one system, allowing for fewer mistakes and quicker operations.

Any business that wants to expand, either through inventory or opening a new store front, they need to have a digital system. A new store means double the amount of paper work. The examples of limitations for paper-based systems is clear on this point. A digital system is more flexible system, especially a cloud-based system. The function of a cloud based system is to secure information and back it up on multiple servers, called redundancy. And, it’s always available when away from the office or on the road at a tradeshow or sales call. Managed service providers with cloud-based technology have the best security in place. Any breach in their data and they could lose a lot of customers. Everything is accessible through a tablet or phone. It’s a system that grows with you.

Digital Is the Traditional Office

We live in a fast-paced world that expects immediate results. No one wants to stand in a long line, especially when they can shop from home. Reduced times during checkout equates to increased sales and greater customer satisfaction. Use of digital and cloud based systems increase customer and employee satisfaction, and can be a tool for global communication. Merchants using paper based transactions will be left behind, while their competitors will gain market share through a greater capacity to do more with less.

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