The paperless office, a term coined in the late 1970s, was a reaction to the growing concern that offices were disappearing under a mound of paper. Stacks of filing cabinets were needed to keep track of everything from home loans to banking statements, while fax machines still relied on hard copies of documents – it was as if documents were reproducing, putting a strain on storage and the environment.
While we have made vast improvements with digital copies of bills and statements now available, we have yet to reach the paperless office dream. According to CleanUp.org.au, the average office worker bins around 50kg of paper annually – that’s 10,000 sheets of A4!
But there are ways to cut back on paper. For example, although we think of the fax machine as being reliant on paper, it’s quite easy to turn your fax machine into a paperless virtual machine.
Digital faxes can be sent from your laptop, PC or smartphone just by using your email browser. It’s a way you can send a fax online without needing a fax line or even specific fax software.
First, you need a virtual fax number from a provider like mBox. This number is programmed to interact with your email browser, so that when someone sends a fax to the number, the fax appears as an attachment on an email that appears in your inbox.
Similarly, when you send a fax, you create an email, enter the recipient’s number in the ‘To’ field, attach the file you want to fax in PDF, TIFF or EFX format and press send. The documents arrive at the recipient’s fax machine just as if they were coming from a regular fax. You can even send large files for free – up to 1GB per email.
Using paper in the office isn’t just a matter of safeguarding the environment by not using up trees, water and energy to make paper. Storage is also a major problem with offices that use hard copies of documents rather than digital formats.
But even if you have digitally streamlined your documents so there is not a hard copy in sight, you still need somewhere to store your digital files.
That’s where free cloud storage comes in handy. For example, documents you send using the mBox fax to email service can be securely stored online. So when you need to fax the file again, you can take it from storage – or from your ‘Sent’ folder if you are using the same device. However, the beauty of online storage is you don’t need to be using the same device - the files are right there in the cloud.
The totally paperless office is still some way off. But when it comes to faxing documents and storing copies of them in the cloud, going paperless is already a reality.