Protect Your Documents - Archive OnlineJennifer Martinez
If one of your goals is to get more organized, then add electronically archiving your documents to the list. Digitizing your important documents keeps them safe while giving you quick access to them in the event of an emergency.
There are many ways you can take advantage of today's technology to create a document archive. For example, you can use a digital camera, digital video camera or a scanner. Your printer might even have scanning capabilities.
What kinds of documents should I digitize?
Use your scanner to create digital copies of important documents such as financial records, family medical history, insurance policies, mortgage paperwork, deeds, titles, receipts, birth certificates, passports and so on. Many scanners feature optical character recognition (OCR) technology that will “read” the text in your documents. This feature is useful if you want to extract text and copy it into a word processing program. Save your files in standard formats such as .jpeg, .pdf or simple text. This way, if you're displaced from your home you can still access your files from anywhere without worrying about system compatibility issues.
What else should I archive?
Don't limit your archiving to paperwork. Think about capturing images or video of your personal assets for insurance purposes so that if disaster should strike, you'll have proof of ownership. Here are a few tips to remember:
Be sure to take your photos or record your movies with resolution high enough to capture all the details of the item(s).
Try to record images of everything you own.
Be as detailed as you can and capture your assets from different angles. This includes major assets like your house and your property.
If you are filming, give a running commentary about each item as you go. Include information about when, where and how you obtained it. State how much it cost and estimate its worth now, as well as what it would cost you to replace it.
Once you have everything recorded, transfer your movie or images to your computer so that you can review and edit them. If you've made a movie, don't edit too much or add unnecessary special effects -- the insurance company won't be impressed. Your movie should be as authentic and accurate as possible.
Where should I store my archive?
Once your movie is completed, copy it to a CD or DVD and put it in a safe place such as a safe deposit box, or send a copy to your financial advisor, attorney or a family member. If your inventory is in photograph form, archive the images with an online service, copy them to a CD or even print them in hard copy form for the safe deposit box.
Is archiving a one-time thing?
Not at all. Your assets can change significantly from year to year. It's a good idea to consider updating your archive once a year, or at the very least, each time there is a significant change in your assets. For example, you would want to update the archive if you moved into a new home, or if you came into an inheritance that involved property. Look at your archive as do-it-yourself protection, the same way you'd view your insurance premium.
All my documents are digitized. Now what?
Once you have digitized all your important documents, think about organizing all your files. You can certainly put everything on a CD and call it a day. But if you want to have easier access to your files and maximize the benefits of having all your digital documents in one place, you may want to consider using one of the personal document management (PDM) software applications on the market. With PDM, you can sort, categorize, rate and organize your files. You can annotate your files with important comments, or save your files in various formats, burn them to a CD or DVD, or email and share them with others.
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