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Three easy ways to organize digital and paper documents

Leslie Ayers | Jan. 20, 2014
Filing is no easier in the digital age. Now we have electronic receipts stashed in email messages or on cloud services or on our phones, in addition to the paper documents stuffed in file cabinets and perhaps left in little piles here and there around our homes.

Filing is no easier in the digital age. Now we have electronic receipts stashed in email messages or on cloud services or on our phones, in addition to the paper documents stuffed in file cabinets and perhaps left in little piles here and there around our homes.

Digitizing most documents helps, but you can better manage even the things that remain stubbornly on paper — birth certificates, deeds, and the like — with the help of digital filing utilities (and of course, digital backups of important documents never hurt). Here are three proven methods for indexing and storing your documents, whether you want to digitize them or to keep them in paper form, so that they're easier to store now — and to find later.

Google Drive
For digital data, Google Drive offers an advantage over other cloud storage services: It indexes your files the same way Google does the Web, to make everything you save there searchable. Google Drive also lets you access and search your documents on the go via iOS (shown below) or Android apps.

As with Dropbox and similar cloud-based storage services, you can share files and folders with other people on Google Drive. Files are marked private by default and are shared only when you decide to share them. You can access your files online on your PC through a browser, in the downloadable desktop app, and via your iOS or Android device.

If you're considering Google Drive or any other cloud-based storage service, be sure to check the capacity, time limits, and other rules before you commit essential data to it. With Google Drive, you get up to 15GB of storage free. If you need more you can pay for additional space: The fee is $5 a month for up to 100GB, $10 a month for 200GB, and so on.

NeatConnect
Scanners abound
, but if your goal is not just to digitize but also to organize your paper clutter, your best option is to select one that's integrated with a digital filing system. NeatConnect combines the NeatDesk document scanner with NeatCloud, a cloud-based service that stores and indexes your documents and makes the data they contain available securely from your PC or mobile device.

NeatConnect won us over with its simplicity and elegance, but it does not come cheap. For $500, you get the scanner and three free months of the NeatCloud service, which will then cost you $5 to $25 a month, depending on which plan you choose. If mobility is a must-have, you'll need the $10-per-month Home and Office subscription.

Setting up the NeatDesk scanner takes all of 5 minutes, though creating a Neat account on the unit's tiny touchscreen is slightly cumbersome. We mistapped a letter in the email address and didn't notice the typo until we had completed a few initial scans to NeatCloud. It's one drawback to the NeatConnect system's PC-free operation, so be diligent about what you're entering during setup.

 

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