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Document Capture Hardware and Software Platform

Posted on 2011-10-26
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My client , a small business, would like to implement a scanning platform which will digitize and store all of their documents onto their servers (SBS2010). The client says he will want a color scanner , duplex, letter and legal, with a volume of aprox 100 pages per day. The scanner should be able to index and automatically store documents in created folders on the server. Sharepoint will not be used at this time but may be implemented later. They would also like to have a search facility to view any documnet stored.  The scanner should be able to handle scanning continuously like 12 hours a day for several months.
The client has a dedicated PC with Windows 7 connected to a domain.

The client does not want to use Kodak as a supplier.

Would like to get recommendations of hardware and software out there that can do this. Hardware budget is around $6k and $2k for software.

Thanks
John
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Question by:geocleojohn
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 37033281
John,

My normal recommendation would be Kodak, as I've had terrific success with their scanners for many clients for more than 20 years, but since your client does not want Kodak, my next choice is Fujitsu. The Fujitsu 6130 supports everything you've asked for – color, duplex, letter, legal. It has a 50-sheet ADF and is fast enough to easily handle 100 pages days (can handle MUCH more, but exact speed depends on choice of B&W/color/grayscale, simplex/duplex, and DPI). The street price is around $1,000, so well below your hardware budget. If you want to plan for much higher volume in the future, there are several more expensive products in the 6000 series, such as the 6140, 6230, and 6240 (all in the street price range of $1,300 to $2,000). There's also the FI-5530C2, which is more capable than any of the others mentioned and has a street price of $2,500. In any case, be sure to get an upgraded annual hardware maintenance package, as the ones that are bundled with the scanners are generally not very good.

All of these scanners come with bundled software that will create searchable PDF files (utilizing OCR) and will be able to store the files in shared folders on the server. Some of the bundled software will have a search tool for indexing and searching, but you may want to take some of that $2K software budget and buy a better search package, which I think is a critical feature. Two excellent search products are dtSearch and X1:

http://www.dtsearch.com/
http://www.x1.com/

Some folks like the (free!) Windows Search 4, but it's not my cup of tea (my favorite by far is dtSearch).

One thing that doesn't add up in your requirements: you say 100 pages per day, but then you say that the scanner should be able to handle scanning continuously for 12 hours a day for several months. These scanners are capable of scanning 10 to 50 pages per minute (depending on choice of B&W/color/grayscale, simplex/duplex, and DPI), so you can get through 100 pages is less than an hour, even taking into account paper prep and some manual metadata entry. Scanning continuously for 12 hours a day doesn't foot, unless you're going to do an initial backfile conversion of lots of paper. Regards, Joe
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by:geocleojohn
ID: 37033972
The 12 hours a day has to do with backlog of documents that they need scanned and then 10 to 50 pages per day once the backlog is done.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 37034194
OK, makes sense. Keep in mind that scanning a backlog of documents (we call this "backfile conversion" in the imaging business) is nearly always more difficult and time-consuming than one expects. That's why many organizations limit the backfile conversion to the most recent year or two of docs, and some organizations outsource it, even if they have their own high-speed scanners. Regards, Joe
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by:geocleojohn
ID: 37035676
Thanks Joe for the excellent advice and recommendations.

The 5530C2 comes with ScandAll Pro and Kofax® VRS® Professional .  You have any experience with these?

When I was browsing the scanners , I came across Scanning Software for Fujitsu Scanners: Rack2-Filer™ V5.0.
I think this would be interesting for my client and I wonder if you had any experience with it also?


Also, my client was also asking whether there are scanners that will do handwriting recognition.   They have some old documents they want to scan that are handwritten in cursive and in print.  Is that possible?

Thanks
John

 
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Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016 earned 2000 total points
ID: 37035960
John,

Lots of experience with Kofax VRS. It is the gold standard for image cleanup. "VRS" stands for "Virtual ReScan" and that is exactly what it does – you can, in essence, rescan a document (virtually) without having to put it (physically) through the scanner again. It results in much better quality images, thereby increasing the accuracy of OCR (and ICR, discussed below).

I personally have no experience with ScandAll Pro, but it is well regarded and I wouldn't hesitate to use it in a production environment. People in the imaging business whose opinion I respect speak highly of it.

I also have no personal experience with Rack2-Filer, but the feedback I've received on it indicates that it doesn't do much more than a good organizational scheme on a file server (and a decent file manager to access the files), with the one exception of combining PDF files and then manipulating the pages (deleting pages and changing their order). But the latter is more properly achieved at the initial scanning point (with ScandAll Pro and VRS), thus representing the original source document. Most scanning orgs that I've worked with do not want the end-users manipulating the source docs after scanning (via a tool such as Rack2-Filer). All of that said, you may want to consider it as the viewer tool for your end-users.

Regarding "scanners that will do handwriting recognition", it is not the scanners that do it – it is the software. The term used for that in the imaging business is Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR). This sounds similar to OCR, but OCR is for typewritten text while ICR is for handwritten text. You should check carefully to see if the bundled software supports ICR. If not, use some of that software budget for a top quality OCR/ICR package. Two good ones are ABBYY FineReader and Nuance OmniPage:

http://www.abbyy.com/
http://www.nuance.com/for-business/by-product/omnipage/index.htm

Btw, Fujitsu bundles ABBYY FineReader with some of its scanners. A word of caution on ICR: it is generally much less accurate than OCR, simply because it is far more difficult to recognize handwritten text than typewritten text. As mentioned above, VRS will help the accuracy of OCR and ICR, but expectations are important, so you should set those expectations appropriately for your client – for both OCR and ICR, but especially ICR.

One other thing: sometimes bundled software is a starter or standard edition (non-"professional"). You may want to use the software budget to upgrade to the "pro" version of some, or all, of the packages. I can't tell you exactly what will be bundled, because it varies from scanner to scanner and even with the same scanner from time to time. So be careful on what software editions you're getting bundled with the scanner. Regards, Joe
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Expert Comment

by:mark_harris231
ID: 37037396
John,

Would your client benefit from browser-based document storage platform (i.e., documents are retrieved/viewed via browser)?  I have past work experience with a low-cost solution provider that provides great sales consultancy and can offer a single source solution for both hardware and software.  

Based on your needs and the excellent advice from Joe, I would think this might be a good fit.  Additionally, the document storage platform has "bolt-on" capabilities for original source capture - notably reports and other electronic feeds, and electronic signature capture.  This can be a great way to avoid the whole paper generation aspects in the first place.

The company is COWWW software, a division of Open Solutions:

www.cowww.com

Although primarily centered around the financial services vertical, the platform is flexible enough to accommodate virtually any type of document/data storage needs.

I can provide a direct contact if interested (to bypass the normal sales channel).

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Author Comment

by:geocleojohn
ID: 37040164
Joe,

I noticed you didn't mention network scanners.  While looking into AABY,  I came across Fujitsu fi-6010N which ABBY recommends to run their TouchTo software.  I think my client may like this as an alternative , esp if they go with Sharepoint.  Any thoughts?

Thanks
John
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Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 37040553
John,

I'm a big fan of network scanners. I retired all of my SCSI and USB scanners a decade or so ago and in my SOHO have used nothing but network scanners ever since. However, they are generally slower than direct-connect scanners, so high-volume shops tend to go with workstations dedicated to scanning (and, of course, with a scanner directly connected to each scanning workstation). However, your client's volume is not very high, and there are tremendous advantages to a network-attached scanner (yes, a future SharePoint implementation being one such advantage). So I'd say you hit on a very good idea, and the Fujitsu fi-6010N is an excellent scanner. It has the specs you're looking for and the street price of $2,500 is within your hardware budget.

But there's one issue you should be aware of: it is part of Fujitsu's ScanSnap series of scanners and DOES NOT SUPPORT TWAIN. What this means is that third-party scanning software that requires a TWAIN driver will not work with this scanner (if you're not familiar with TWAIN, Google it – there's a ton of info about it on the web, including at http://www.twain.org/).

The lack of a TWAIN driver will probably not be an issue for you, as the bundled software (and other software designed to work with the scanner) will likely do everything your client needs. Indeed, the ScanSnap scanners are consistently among the highest rated scanners, although sometimes you'll see users mention the lack of a TWAIN driver as a problem. I don't think it will be a problem in your case, but I at least wanted to make you aware of the issue.

ABBYY OCR products are excellent. I have no direct experience with TouchTo, but I have absolutely no qualms about it, as it will surely utilize the ABBYY OCR engine. Regards, Joe
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Author Comment

by:geocleojohn
ID: 37040980
Yes

Network may be the way to go.  I'll recommend it to them along with a direct connect option.

Thanks for the excellent guidance and recommendation

Best regards
John
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 37041033
John,
You're very welcome. Good luck with your client. I hope the solution works out well. Regards, Joe
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