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More and more small and medium-sized law firms are turning to digital imaging to capture and archive important legal documents. While many firms use service bureaus to scan documents, others opt to scan documents in-house. Yet, finding a scanner that meets your needs and budget can be a daunting task. The features you select for your scanner can greatly influence the overall cost of the system — but the initial purchase and installation of the scanner typically represent only 20 percent of the overall system cost. That’s why it’s essential to look beyond the list price to understand the long-term costs of owning a scanner. Here are some questions to ask your imaging reseller or systems integrator to make you a more informed buyer. 1. How fast a scanner do I need? Be sure your scanner can handle your peak document flow. To calculate your peak, estimate the maximum number of documents you would scan in one day, divide that by the number of hours you expect to run the scanner per day, then divide that number by 60 (for minutes in an hour). The result of this calculation is a rough approximation of the pages per minute (p-p-m) ratio, which is the figure manufacturers use to rate the speed of a scanner. Scanners vary in speed and in general, the faster the machine, the higher the price. An entry-level, flatbed scanner captures between 20 and 50 p-p-m and a “production-level” scanner with an automatic document feeder (ADF) can scan as many as 125 p-p-m. At a minimum, pick a scanner with a rated speed that will handle your peak document flow. 2. How do I know if a scanner is reliable? Production scanners are rated for daily duty cycle, which is the maximum number of documents a scanner should capture in a day. This is the best indication of a scanner’s overall quality and reliability. The daily “duty cycle” for flatbed scanners can be as low as 500 documents, while most production scanners feature unlimited daily duty cycles. If you are scanning more than 6,000 documents a day or 30,000 documents a week, you’ll need a production-level scanner with an unlimited daily duty cycle. 3. What types of features should I consider? High-tech features can greatly enhance scanning operations. Some features that can most benefit legal applications — especially the scanning of evidentiary documents — include ultrasonic multifeed detection, imprinting, color dropout and color scanning. Determine what your operation needs and ask if those features are included in the list price of the scanner, or if they are an additional expense. 4. How easy is the scanner to use? Full-time scanner operator salaries average $25,000 across the country. Training scanner operators takes time and money. Therefore a scanner’s ease-of-use is an important consideration. Find a scanner that is user-friendly for training and operating purposes (e.g., quick access to clear paper jams). Select a scanner that offers a simple user interface. 5. How often will I need to order replacement parts and how much do they cost? Lamps and rollers are the first to go. Lamps, for example, can last as few as 2,000 hours or as many as 5,000 hours. A feeder roller assembly, which can cost between $300 and $800 to replace, can wear out after just 200,000 scans or can last for as many as 600,000 scans. Check the price and the mean time between failure (MTBF) of the lamps and rollers. You may want to order a “consumables” kit, which contains spare parts and cleaning materials so you have everything on hand to reduce downtime and increase productivity. 6. What about service and warranty agreements? Service agreements and warranties are vital to ensuring that your scanner stays up and running. Some manufacturers offer as a standard package on-site warranty coverage from 90 days to one year. Others offer a “depot warranty” where replacement scanners are provided while the original is repaired at the manufacturer’s facility. On-site warranties, if not standard, range from $3,000 to $5,000 in the first year. Post-warranty coverage typically costs between $1,000 and $7,500 per scanner, per year for new production scanners. On-site warranties are generally better because they save you the hassle of sending your scanner back to the manufacturer. Plus, damage can occur when shipping this equipment if it’s not packed properly in its original container. Once you’ve addressed these questions, you’ll also need to factor in additional costs, such as a PC, monitor and PC board. PC boards for production scanning cost between $500 and $3,500. These questions should help jump-start your thinking about the type of scanner you need and the hidden costs you don’t need. By asking the right questions, you should end up with the right scanner at the right price. Roland Simonis is director of technology development at Bell & Howell Scanners, based in Lincolnwood, Ill. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.bhscanners.com.

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