Digital File Storage

Digitizing for Disaster – Part 1

With the nature of technology these days, this will be a slightly controversial post, so I’m going to put a few caveats on it before we start:

  1. Everyone has different levels of comfort with technology, if this is out of your comfort zone than it may not be for you.
  2. Technology is constantly changing and so this article may get updated in the future.
  3. We know that hackers and data breaches happen especially when it comes to items stored in the cloud.  I’m going to present a few different strategies, including the strategy that I use, but feel free to adjust the specifics to fit your individual risk and concern tolerance.

Now…on with our post!

wet damaged documents

When a disaster strikes, paper is very, very vulnerable.  Almost every natural disaster involves fire, water, physical impact that can destroy paper.  Unfortunately most of the important items in our lives from an emotional and an informational perspective, are printed on this vulnerable substance.  Luckily, we live in the digital age, so watching irreplaceable photos and documents being destroyed by fire, or water, or debris is avoidable.

You can and should use technology to ensure that the priceless paper items in your house are protected.  The major elements of this project are how to digitize or scan our photos and documents and how to organize and store the files ones you’ve created them.  This is the first of a 3 part series.  In this post we’ll give an overview of how to tackle the project.  Part 2 and Part 3 will deal specifically with the types of documents you’ll be digitizing and the unique considerations associated with each type.

Scanner versus Digitizing Service

Digitizing services can save you the time of scanning, but will cost you a pretty penny in the process.  Costco charges $19.99 for the first 62 photos, and $0.32 for each additional photo.  In our case, we had 2,445 photos to scan which would have cost $762.56.  Instead, we opted to purchase a flatbed scanner and digitize them ourselves.   The Epson v600 flatbed scanner runs $209.00 on Amazon (depending on the day), saving us almost $550.  We had a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i document scanner for our business, which we used to scan, well, the documents.   Additionally we used the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 which is much faster but also more expensive. You can run photos through a document scanner, but they can get jammed or bent during the process, so I recommend either using a flatbed scanner for photos and documents, or buying two different scanners.

Document Types

In order to get started with this project I divided my paper into 3 categories: Photos, Regular Documents, and Priority Documents.  These groups naturally arose when I started to think about the security and accessibility that I would want for each type.


This is a pretty straightforward category, photographs that are either paper or digital. “But how do I digitize a digital picture?” I hear you asking.  Well, you don’t, but you can organize and store them in a systematic and centralized way…along with your scanned photos.

Regular Documents

These are documents that you would like to have for reference like utility bills, insurance contracts, maintenance records, anything that you would like to have after a disaster.  However, this does not include sensitive information like medical records or documents that could be used for identification.

Priority Documents

Priority documents are the most sensitive documents and require the highest level of security.  Items like your drivers license, social security card, birth certificate and medical records.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 focusing on Photos (and videos) coming soon.

For more articles on planning click here.

Author: Casey Feves

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