Futuristic science-fiction films and series primarily differ in politics, outlook, and technology. But they almost all have one thing in common, paper is practically non-existent. Rather than paper currency, the residents of the future use cards, chips, or codes to access digital funds.

Even the offices and workspaces are highly digitized, with records, agreements, and communications all held in computers. Access to this information is through fancy-looking tablets or floating holograms.

While all of this looks amazing, it is hardly practical. Yet, despite these visions of a paper-free world, there are many reasons physical documentation is here to stay.

The Security Issues with Going Paperless

Paper filing systems are large, cumbersome, and take up too much space. But, in today’s technological world, they are also broadly safer than digital filing systems. Today criminals have developed a wide range of tactics to gain access to anything stored on company servers, including pretending to be someone within the company or a person of importance to trick loyal employees. The same level of access is much harder to gain in person. So, while carrying company files on a tablet may seem convenient, are the risks worth it?

Admittedly, security for digital files has come a long way in the past decade. But hackers are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to access those documents. Unfortunately, their innovations regularly test the most vulnerable points in any company and often find the weaknesses they require. And too often, data breaches aren’t detected until it’s too late.

On the other hand, paper files are much harder to access and far more likely to be noticed should they go missing. This is why so many businesses still rely heavily on paper documentation for personal notes, contracts, and legal and financial documents. While having digital versions scanned and stored is a good idea for easy shareability with clients, paper documentation is a vital backup to keep hackers from holding information hostage.

Lack of Access/ Loss of Information

When filed correctly, paper documentation provides reliable accessibility. Simply enter the file room or open the appropriate drawer to view the file needed. Digital files, on the other hand, require internet and server-specific access. So, should the internet go down, the electricity goes out, or a server crash occurs, access to any electronic files can be temporarily halted.

Some of these emergencies can do far more than block access; electrical outages or surges can cause issues with sensitive computer and server equipment, leading to data losses. Other increasingly common problems such as malware, hacking, computer viruses, and general user error can all result in files being corrupted or deleted from the system. 

Paper files, if only as a backup system, are a reliable alternative to keep business information safe and accessible in times of crisis. In particular, legal, finance, and medical facilities should maintain a hard copy database to avoid losing important data and hiccups when serving customers. 

Paper Remains Part of Business Workflows

According to Wakefield research and Infotrends, 73% of businesses with less than 500 employees print at least four times daily. But the trend is not limited to smaller companies. Even medium and large businesses depend on paper for a variety of uses, including:

  • Personal notes
  • Copies of necessary documentation such as resumes and recommendation letters
  • Work calendars
  • Documentation for team-building trips and brainstorming sessions
  • Notes during hiring interviews or in case of complaints to human resources

Larger businesses especially enjoy using paper for items that are unlikely to be kept long-term. Things like notes, documentation that is likely to become redundant, document mark-ups, vendor or client presentations, and other short-term items are usually printed or written down with no intent to place them in long-term storage. Scanning these items into a digital format would waste time and server space.

So, while science fiction envisions a paperless future for all of human society, even the most prominent businesses have trouble eliminating paper from their processes. Paper as it was once known, used, and loved may well be over. But the need for its existence and use to keep businesses running smoothly is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.