Over the past two weeks, we have decided to start scanning all bills of lading for our invoices. We have also started scanning many other things, or using a really great program called CutePDF which creates a "printer" that actually saves the printed file as a pdf file. We house the files in a central folder system where we can the retrieve them for email or store them for digital documentation.
Honestly, setting the system up has been a lot of fun. After deciding to do it, we consulted with a computer expert and he suggested we do a double or triple backup. First, he suggested having a second hard drive that exactly copies everything on the primary (called RAID) constantly. By having duplicate drives, a simple failure of one of the drives would not mean a total loss of the data. Second, he suggested having an external hard drive that backed up at least daily, either the entire system or new files (as small as our data set is, the whole system backs up in under an hour). The third option he mentioned by didn't go into great detail about was online backup. We decided to use Carbonite because it has unlimited backup online for $49/year for one computer (which is all we truly need to back up). It runs whenever the computer is idle and backs up all new or changed files. Then if some real calamity struck the business (tornadoes and tropical storms are common to this area), at least the data is still there.
So in a few weeks, we have gone from a company with a lot of paper files to one "going green". In our case, though, the "green" motivation was the improved speed of cash flow, not so much the number of trees we claimed each year. We have found several customers willing to accept documents by email (cutting the cost of copying and mailing as well as the time lost as they went through the mail) and others willing to accept faxes (just as efficient). More will decide to accept them in the future, especially with the incentives likely to come from a Democratic Congress and president.
We will be ready.
Or at least my company will be - I'll be off researching how small businesses are responding to "green matters" as compared with large corporations (not likely).
Update: I just backed up over four gigabytes of data with Carbonite in less than half a day (after that process, only new or changed files will need to be uploaded, but most of the data is protected).