On January 1 of this year, I wrote a short article entitled A New Year's Resolution: Going Paperless in which I promised I would stop wasting paper and not file all sorts of paper in piles, nor in binders or filing cabinets. I am happy to report that I have achieved nearly 100% success during 2013.
I now print almost nothing on my computer. Most everything is saved in Evernote or in an appropriate folder in Dropbox. Of course, the same items can be retrieved quickly and viewed not only on my desktop or laptop computers, but also with my iPhone or iPad, wherever I am. (An Android phone or tablet will do the same.) The few pieces of paper that need to be given to others are usually sent by email, never printed and mailed.
During the year I purchased an Evernote scanner, essentially a Fujitsu ScanSnap desktop scanner that is bundled with software designed for use with Evernote on a Macintosh or Windows computer. You can read more about my experience with that scanner at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2013/11/a-scanner-designed-for-evernote.html and in a Plus Edition article at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=28193. This high speed scanner will scan and digitize both sides of paper. I can insert up to 50 sheets of paper at a time into the input tray and push one button, and everything is automatically stored in Evernote and Dropbox within a minute or so.
The mailman still brings old-fashioned "snail mail" to the house every day. All of the incoming mail is immediately sorted into three categories:
- Junk mail and some other items are filed in the nearest wastebasket.
- Items to be saved are placed into the Evernote scanner's input tray, scanned, and automatically saved in both Evernote and Dropbox. The original paper is then thrown into the wastebasket.
- A very few items are saved elsewhere, as appropriate. There aren't many of these items during the year, but a few examples include my newly-renewed driver's license, the yearly renewal tag that needs to be applied to the automobile's license plate, checks that need to be deposited in the bank account, and similar items.
NOTE: Checks are always deposited by using my bank's "deposit checks online" app on the cell phone. I snap a picture of the front and back of the endorsed check with the smartphone or tablet computer's camera, using the bank's app. The check is then electronically deposited into my account within a few seconds. It's fast, secure, and free. It also saves time and gas because I don't have to drive to the bank. I then save the paper check for a day or two until I see it show up in my bank account. (My bank sends a daily email showing all new deposits, withdrawals, debit card charges, and the end-of-day balance.) The checks have always appeared in my bank account within one business day. I then shred the original check and throw it away. That's another method of being paperless.
I also pay nearly all bills with my bank's "pay bills online" service or with credit cards. That's much safer than writing checks or carrying cash.
Of course, I do not ignore genealogy. That is also paperless nowadays. Most of my new genealogy research is performed online, where it is easy to save newly-found information in Evernote, in Dropbox, and in my favorite genealogy program. For instance, earlier today I saved more than 30 obituaries from the Bangor Daily News' web site.
In the few instances where I visit a library in person and find new information, I usually take a picture of the information with the cell phone's camera and then save the images in Evernote and Dropbox. In the very few instances where I can only obtain photocopies, I take them home, run them through the scanner, and then throw the paper away.
Unfortunately, I can only report a partial success with my backlog of paper that sits in a four-drawer filing cabinet at home. That filing cabinet contains photocopies and other genealogy-related paper accumulated over the past thirty-five years. At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would scan all that paper and save it in my computer. My progress towards that goal has been glacial, at best. I did scan a few pages but far less than what I had hoped for. Oh well, there is always next year...
Of course, all this digital information is backed up in multiple locations, both locally and in the cloud. My desktop computer has a multi-terabyte hard drive plugged into one of its USB connectors. Every bit and byte on my computer's internal hard drive is copied to the external hard drive, including past versions of all files. (TimeMachine saves all versions of all files. I can go back and retrieve any version of any file, even the files as they existed days, weeks, or years ago.)
A hard drive plugged into the computer's USB connector combined with a good backup program provides convenience and security. File retrieval is quickly available whenever needed. Of course, the external hard drive is worthless if a fire, flood, hurricane, or burst water pipe destroys both the computer and the attached hard drive. Therefore, all data files are also securely backed up in the cloud on Amazon's S3 backup service. In addition, all records in Evernote are securely stored on Evernote.com's servers, and all Dropbox files are securely stored on Dropbox.com's servers as well as copied to my laptop computer.
I now have a minimum of four copies of all my important documents, stored in four different locations (at home, in Amazon S3's multiple servers, in Dropbox's servers, and in Evernote's servers). I think this provides much better protection than storing information only on fragile paper in one location that is at risk from fires, floods, hurricanes, or burst water pipes.
I can report 99% success at being paperless during all of 2013. I no longer have mounds of paper lying around. I can find anything quickly and easily, thanks to the capability of quickly searching the computer's entire hard drive for any words. I can retrieve any item quickly when I need it. (You can read my earlier note about retrieving my eyeglass prescription while standing in a local LensCrafters store at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2013/04/another-reason-to-store-your-data-in-the-cloud.html.)
In short, life without paper is great! You might make a similar resolution for 2014. If I can do it, you can also.