Serious Issue - company buried in paperwork, boxes and file cabinets full of paper, need a solution(s)

Just got hired on at a company that never had an IT guy before.

There is a room dedicated to boxes and boxes of paperwork going back 10 years.
1) We desperately need a system to do this work on a computer instead of endless paperwork.
Currently, all the users use Mac OS (Mac minis 2011) a Red Hat linux server and one fresh VMware server
I just installed.
2) A possible way to fax paperwork and dump into a server? Faxserver or ?
3) How can I put all our different paper forms into digital, editable forms?
4) The forms can be indexed and searchable on the server?

Really need help on this,
HappyT
TheHappyTechAsked:
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nobusCommented:
let the external company put all documents upt to now in digital form; and continue from there yourself
this will take the big load away for now; and it can be less costly also...
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WiReDWolfCommented:
LaserFiche (http://www.laserfiche.com) and a scanner or two I'd imagine.  That would handle converting your paper mess to a digital mess.

There are plenty of PDF applications, the premier being Adobe Acrobat, that would help you convert paper forms to editable digital format.  Foxit and others also make similar products.  

You talk about a VMware server but that's just a host server - what's on it?

Mac and Red Hat - interesting mix.  In my opinion both would be for a specialized environment and neither would provide the depth of business software solutions for a professional office.  If you can find what you need to make it work then fantastic but you may find it hard to find real business solutions to run on either operating system.

Rather than just replace everything perhaps look at a 2X Application Server.  A single Windows Terminal Server (RDS) running 2X Application server gives you the ability to port any Windows based application to a thinapp that will run on virtually any workstation.  The 2X RDP Client will run on just about anything, including most phones.

Sounds like you'll have a lot of fun trying to bring the company forward to the 21st century.
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TheHappyTechAuthor Commented:
Exactly, I have been slowing trying to bring them to the 21st century. They thought I was a hero when I added all their email addresses to the Scanner/Copier.

They use Mac Minis to connect the RH linux server via remote telnet sessions to connect to the company database.

We can use Vmware fusion and/or "PlayOnMac" to run some windows business apps.

Appreciate the help,
HappT
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TheHappyTechAuthor Commented:
Also, I am thinking about getting Mac OS X server as well.
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WiReDWolfCommented:
Mac OS X Server is basically just Mac OS X with more connectivity features.  It's not like a Windows server that can be promoted to be a domain controller.  If the apps aren't native to Mac OS X this won't really help you unless you're replacing the RH Linux server.

VMware Fusion for Mac is pretty much just an emulator - like VMware Workstation for Windows.  It's not a bad idea but in my opinion not as versatile as a 2X Application Server.  It adds overhead to the client operating system and for you doubles the number of systems that require support.  

From an IT standpoint it cuts the administrative cost to 'host' applications that can be ported to any device from a single server.  Of course that also means you have a single point of failure but if you set up your systems for good disaster recovery you can significantly minimize potential downtime.  It would probably come down to a number of factors on which way to go:

1. Cost Benefit (VMware Fusion time X number of workstations vs 2X Application Server + Windows Server + CALS)
2. Remote Connectivity Considerations (2X Application Server could potentially allow your staff to work from anywhere)
3. The solution selected to digitize your office environment
4. A budget - lots of companies do not value the benefit of IT and feel the costs for the technology and maintenance outweigh the benefits

This is of course a pretty superficial analysis - there's not a lot of information go on.
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nobusCommented:
you could give the work to an external company, to digitise everything up to now, while you work out a solution for the future
this will be faster, and keep the employees free of extra work
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gheistCommented:
Spend $10  to convince management to buy from-feed scanner.
ISBN 978-61542-424-5
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serialbandCommented:
If you already have multifunction scanner/copier, with email capability, does it convert to PDF and send?  Is it a multipage formfeed model?

If you need to upgrade it.  Ricoh Aficio MP c2551 works well, if you also need a printer.  You can scan multiple pages at a time into PDF format and email it.  You may want a dedicated multifeed, duplex scanner if you have double sided documents.  Depending on how quickly you need everything digitized, you're going to have to hire someone, or plenty of someones, to do all that scanning.  It's sometimes quicker to outsource it.

As for forms, you can create them in Word or Adobe Acrobat, depending on how skilled someone is at creating documents with either of those programs.  Adobe has digital signatures now too.
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TheHappyTechAuthor Commented:
Thank you everyone. Let me try a few solutions and I will divvy out points.
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patrvic_Commented:
A possible solution is to scan the documents as image(s) and use an OCR reader to batch convert them to ASCII.
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