- Find a vendor
- Negotiate a contract
- Install equipment
- Common questions
- Appendix 1: Characteristics of scanner technology
- Appendix 2: But what if I’m using a photocopier for digitisation?
The purpose of this section of the guidelines is to discuss issues concerning the purchase of digitisation equipment for back-capture digitisation projects, including hardware and software.
Any decisions regarding the purchase of digitisation equipment should be made when you have an understanding of:
- the records you intend to digitise
- your technical specifications for image quality.
You can then assess the hardware and software to see if it can deliver the quality you require and therefore enable the digital images to be retained as long as they are needed.
An organisation determined their technical specifications and needs for image quality for their digitisation project. They had been intending to use an existing multifunctional device (MFD), i.e. a photocopier that could scan. However, this MFD could only produce images at a 75dpi resolution and resulted in much larger files as the ability to compress them was limited. In addition, staff were able to change the settings at will. The project team soon realised that a MFD could not meet the quality and quantity requirements they had established. They purchased a mid-range scanner instead.
There are a number of vendors of digitisation equipment but as yet there is no panel contract for digitisation equipment in the NSW public sector. Organisations that are outsourcing their digitisation may be asked to consider use of the National Disability Services for digitisation.
Note: State Records NSW is not in a position to endorse or recommend any particular vendor.
You may benefit from contacting other government organisations who have conducted digitisation projects to seek advice on vendors and their performance.
When purchasing hardware (e.g. scanners and digital cameras) considerations may include:
- whether a flatbed or automatic document feeding scanner is needed
- the type of original material you are digitising (eg. size, use of colour etc.)
- the quantity of material to be scanned (files, pages per file, how much in each batch etc.)
- ease of use and un-jamming
- the funds available
- ability to add to if necessary
- the bit depth and resolution required
- the time it takes to scan under normal conditions
- how many pages can be loaded into the scanner at one time
- whether both sides of a document can be scanned in one scan/pass
- noise generated
- the file formats it can output to (avoid scanners that output directly to proprietary formats)
- compliance with accepted standards
- how it connects to a PC
Note: The speeds and capabilities of scanners published by vendors are often not a good indication of the actual time required for processing. To make accurate estimates you should undertake testing on the records to be processed.
The Department of Education and Communities recommend that the following standard features are included with the scanner:
- ultrasonic double-feed detection
- automatic page size detection
- skip blank page
- duplex – the ability to reproduce double pages
- simplex – the ability to reproduce single pages
- staple detection
- punch hole removal
- deskew - the straightening of pages that are off-centre
- batch separation.
They also recommend you check the scanning capability with the scanning computer including:
- How is the scanner connected to the computer e.g. SCSI card, USB or serial connection?
- Is the scanner compatible with your operating system?
- Are the scanner drivers both 32 bit and 64 bit compliant?
- Is additional software required to run the scanner or is it locked to a particular software brand?
- How much is the annual maintenance fee and what is included?
For more information about scanners see: http://getty.edu/research/publications/electronic_publications/introimages/scanners.html and Appendix 1.
Digital cameras may be an alternative for some back-capture digitisation projects, particularly those involving archival records as they require no contact with the original paper record. Bound volumes or fragile materials may be able to be digitised this way. You should look for a sophisticated digital camera with high resolution, a wide range of digital zoom and the capacity to capture in TIFF format if needed for the project.
The National Library of Australia has published a list of the capture devices they use for a range of materials (including scanners, digital cameras etc.) and guidance on selecting a capture device for different kinds of materials. See: http://www.nla.gov.au/digital/capturedevice.html
Some software will already come with the hardware. More specialised software may also be required for post-capture processing.
When purchasing software considerations may include:
- how it drives or interfaces with the scanner or camera
- ease of use
- how it receives an image from the scanner
- how the scan settings can be controlled (e.g. resolution and bit depth)
- ways in which the software can preview the image, e.g. if software can be on the project staff member's desktop, initial quality checks can be performed immediately after digitisation
- if the software can automate the capture of metadata - see Metadata requirements for more information
- file formats it can output to - see Technical specifications for more information
- ability to do any image enhancements required
- how it integrates with other devices or software such as the organisation’s EDRMS (or whether additional software is needed)
- work required to scan successfully into the EDRMS
- how EDRMS or software upgrades in the future might impact on compatibility
- need for text based searching (in this case Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is required)
- cost of the software, e.g. whether it is a one-off cost, whether the software price is by user seat or in group lots, or whether the software is charged per pages scanned
- other cost inclusions, e.g. whether training is included in the purchase price, what support is provided and at what level, and what the annual maintenance fee is and what it includes (e.g. regular services or replacement)
- whether a software dongle is required (a piece of hardware that connects to the laptop, desktop or server computer)
- whether a water mark is applied to the scans.
A note on image enhancement and annotation
Image enhancement techniques (e.g. sharpening, clipping of highlights or shadows, blurring to eliminate scratches, spotting or de-speckling etc.) may be employed to make an image more exactly resemble the original paper record. However, these must be routinely employed and documented. If they are not, your organisation may be subject to challenges that the digital images are not authentic representations of the original records.
When software enables additions of annotations to images such as highlighting, stamps, redaction or the addition of sticky notes, these should be managed as overlays and should not change the actual image. You should still be able to print an image with or without the annotations.
Procedures for the digitisation process should indicate what acceptable enhancements are allowed for the digital images produced.
Software to view digital images for business purposes
Your organisation may need to review its needs for desktop equipment to enable staff to open the digital images you have created.
Maps, plans and large format records may need imaging software to allow staff to open and view the digital images.
These should be able to show the digital images in a manner and quality which is acceptable for business use.
Note: Here response time may be critical. Staff members will not be happy if it takes them 15 minutes to open a digital image they need to use in their business process.
For back-capture projects you will need to consider what other equipment you will require.
For example, if you are digitising volumes you may require a v-shaped cradle or supports to hold them if they cannot be fully opened without damage, and an overhead stand to hold a digital camera.
Technical infrastructure considerations
One important consideration with digitisation is ensuring that your organisation has a robust technical infrastructure and system architecture to support the sudden influx of many more digital images.
Do you have adequate storage capacity for the amount of digital images likely to be generated? This will vary based on digitisation volumes, document types, resolutions etc., but should be adequate to meet projected storage requirements for a back-scanning project. For a business process digitisation project this will vary based on digitisation volumes, document types, resolutions etc. but should be adequate to meet projected storage requirements for at least three years (with the ability to cost-effectively increase storage when required) or five years (which would be the projected life of the storage system). For example at the low end of digitisation you may have a calculation like this: [Average file size = 20MB] x [#Digitised files/day = 100] x [Workdays/year =260] gives a storage requirement of 520GB/year (or 1.56TB over 3 years). A larger organisation could be in the vicinity of 10-15TB per year, doubling each year.
What bandwidth is required for access? This will be dependent on access requirements.
Will you need to purchase new systems for the storage of the digital images?
You will also need to consider your organisation's ability to back up these digital images.
With some back capture digitisation projects, it may be acceptable to consider storage in a separate digital store. This must be backed up and there should be offsite storage of back-ups.
Health and safety considerations
It is also important to consider the health and safety needs of staff when choosing equipment for digitisation. See Staffing digitisation projects for more information.
When negotiating a contract with vendors of digitisation equipment you may need to check if your vendor will:
- recommend the best hardware and software requirements for your needs
- make suggestions about the integration of digitisation into your processes
- discuss your metadata requirements
- set up document definitions so that metadata can be automated
- install hardware and software
- test hardware and software settings and make refinements when required
- advise how to change settings for non-standard items
- provide advice if there are initial problems with hardware or software (sometimes this can be provided remotely)
- provide software to view digital images
- advise on quality assurance measures - see Benchmarks and quality assurance for more information about quality checks of equipment
- advise on storage and integration with EDRMS
- provide maintenance for a contracted period (check what maintenance includes)
- provide product upgrades
- provide training at the outset of the project
- provide ongoing training if there is staff turnover.
The contract should set out expectations that have been agreed by both parties.
Note: For a list of considerations to address in contracts when outsourcing digitisation to service providers, see Inhouse or Outsource?
If you are digitising inhouse it is important to consider the occupational health and safety of staff when selecting and installing digitisation equipment, especially the way the equipment is set up. See Staffing digitisation projects for more information.
Full testing of equipment should be performed before the program is rolled out.
See Frequently asked questions for answers to the following question:
- Should I use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software?
|Equipment for digitisation||Yes||No|
|Have you considered your organisation’s technical specifications and metadata requirements and whether the hardware and software proposed can meet these?|
|Have you considered your EDRMS (or other storage packages) and whether the hardware and software is flexible enough to integrate with these?|
|Have you determined what software is required on staff desktops to ensure the images can be accessed and viewed?|
|Have you considered the effects digitisation will have on your organisation’s technical infrastructure and what might be needed to ensure this is robust?|
|Have you determined whether the vendors you are considering have an acceptable reputation and track record? You may consider talking to some of their clients.|
|Have you ensured that the contract outlines all expectations and roles and responsibilities?|
The following appendix has been reproduced with kind permission from the National Archives of Australia's guidelines, Digitising accumulated physical records. 
|Automatic document feed||
This is the ability to process original documents in bulk, sequentially digitising rather than hand feeding individual pages.
Varieties of automatic document feed (ADF) are:
|Original size||This is the maximum page size a particular scanner can accommodate. Typically scanners are A3 or A4 enabled, but consideration for non-standard paper sizes may be needed.|
|Speed of scanning||Digitising speeds depend on the resolution required and whether the digitisation is in colour or black and white (greyscale).|
Scanners support multiple requirements. One scale to assess the capability of scanners is:
|Ports and image
Interfaces between scanners, printers and computers for storage are required. Typical interface protocols are:
Determining your specifications
A number of organisations are now using MultiFunctional Devices (MFDs), such as photocopiers able to operate as scanners, for business process digitisation.
Sometimes the functionality of an MFD will be sufficient for your business process digitisation needs, sometimes it will not. The technical specifications for your project need to be determined before procurement commences. This will allow you to determine if an MFD can meet your needs. See Technical specifications for more information.
Note: It is tempting to look at the technology first and fit it to project needs. However, you may find you are missing functionality you actually require for your project after the purchase has been made.
If you are intending to use an existing MFD you need to check that it can meet your specifications.
Like any purchase of equipment you should also check things like:
- the vendor’s credentials and customer testimonials
- sales and service agreements
- after sales support levels.
You should also meet NSW Government requirements for procurement, including the requirements of NSW Government Contract 2390 – Imaging Devices and Document Solutions which covers MFDs, printers and scanners.
Note: Some MFDs on the market allow you to send digital images to a specific network location that enables an EDRMS to pick up the new files and import them.
In some cases MFDs will allow users to add metadata a document at the point it is digitised (e.g. a unique identifier like an invoice number). Some EDRMS packages can look for a match for the metadata field in another application to further automatically populate additional metadata fields in the EDRMS.
MFDs and workflow
You will need to determine what standard settings the MFDs should default to.
Note: Business process digitisation will involve a range of records with different retention periods. It is not recommended that staff continually change MFD settings, depending on the type of records, as this is impractical. However, where you can identify groups of records that require higher specifications, e.g. Board meeting papers etc. which are required as State archives, a particular staff member can be made responsible for ensuring that these are digitised with suitable higher settings.
As with other digitisation, you will need to consider what process will be best suited to your organisation’s needs and ensure the technology supports this process. You will also need to determine business rules for using the scanner in the MFD and the management and quality checking of the digital image afterwards. Staff will need to be instructed or trained in the correct use of the device and their responsibilities for quality assurance, digital filing and what to do with original paper records after digitisation. See the relevant sections of these guidelines for further advice.
In an organisation the scanner in the MFD was set up so that staff members could perform their own digitisation. Digital images were routed to their email address. Each staff members was then made responsible for opening the images checking all pages for legibility and ensuring that the images were accurate and complete copies of the original, using a checklist provided. Once checked, each staff member was then responsible for saving the images into the organisation’s EDRMS.
 Stuart D. Lee, Digital imaging: A practical handbook, Library Association Publishing, London, 2001, p.50; G. Mortimer, Department of Education and Communities, Human resources document scanning project, Powerpoint presentation delivered on 3 August 2011 (not available online)
 National Archives of Australia, Digitising accumulated physical records, p. 15.
 David Roberts, ‘Digitising’ in Keeping Archives III, Australian Society of Archivists Inc, 3rd edition, 2008, p.415 (not available online).
 Mortimer, op.cit.
 Archives New Zealand, Digitisation standard, 2007, Appendix 7.
 Roberts, op.cit., p.415.
 National Archives of Australia, op.cit., p. 34