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Efforts to make county as paperless as possible continue

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In 2011, we outlined our Record Department's work to scan and shred mountains of old documents, creating a digital library of more than a century-and-a-half of county business transactions.

By the end of Fiscal Year 2014 – last September – the department had some 339 million images stored in its computer banks. Last year alone, the department added more than 17 million separate documents from the Commissioners Court, county departments, the County Auditor, and so on. 

 

Of those, almost 4 million records were pulled from packing boxes and paper files, staples removed, scanned and indexed by the staff. The remainder came in from county departments that have joined in archiving digital records instead of paper.

That's a lot of scanning, and it doesn't factor what's coming in digitally every day.  

The courts' file management system – Odyssey -- has an image storage function of its own, and the District and County clerk's offices have since converted over to e-Filing. In 2013, when mandatory e-Filing began in civil courts and family, we talked about how the District Clerk's paper flow plummeted 96 percent in its first year alone. (Folks filing lawsuits and such pro se – without a lawyer – can still submit paper.)

And while we can't prove a direct link between scanned, e-filed, and digitally stored documents with lower paper costs, the amount we spend on paper has dropped steadily.

We checked with our Purchasing Agent, whose office oversees the buying of office supplies for all county offices, to learn that expenditures for paper dropped 95 percent from 2013 to 2014 alone -- a savings of $40,000 in that one year. Since 2012, costs are down about $63,000 annually.

That's a lot of paper (see comparisons below).

So what does that mean in expanded digital storage as opposed to miles of bankers boxes stuffed with paper receipts and invoices?

Beyond the ease and quickness of pulling up indexed digital files, our Information Technology folks' accounts show that, since May 2014, we've added more than 100 terabytes of digital documents and images to our storage servers, for a total of 254+ terabytes of space currently in use. Of course, that figure is a moving target, since the volume grows daily. 

​To put a terabyte into perspective, though, we've included some size comparisons:

  • 1 Terabyte:  50,000 trees made into paper and printed;
  • 2 Terabytes: An academic research library;
  • 10 Terabytes: Printed collection of the U. S. Library of Congress (not their digital data)
  • 50 Terabytes: Contents of a large mass storage system.
  • The U.S. Library of Congress Web Capture team claims that,  "as of April 2011, the Library has collected about 235 terabytes of data," and that it adds about 5 terabytes per month.