Hard copy documents will likely never be completely replaced, though several technologies currently in development are attempting to further reduce the need for them. It's not a stretch to say that in the near future, sales receipts and other documentation we traditionally associate with a hard copy may be delivered electronically to individual e-mail addresses or accounts, even when purchased in person with cash. So why the rush to replace hard copy documentation? Is it a natural evolution of the electronic age or perhaps an environmental concern? The truth of the matter has less to do with the message and more to do with the medium. Paper, as a method of storing information, leaves a lot to be desired. While it may be more personable than a bit or a byte, paper is susceptible to loss or misplacement and damage from a variety of sources.
Water, fire and smoke damage can erase years worth of documentation. The same can be said for electronic data, although electronic data can be copied, backed up and made less susceptible to compromise or alteration with relative ease. That's not to say that ease of use and environmental issues aren't legitimate concerns for business as well. Electronic data can be accessed from anywhere in the world if it's housed on an accessible, password protected network, which is far more convenient than waiting on a faxed or internally mailed document or documents. From an environmental standpoint, electronically generated documents are far more ecologically sound as they reduce paper consumption.
Additionally, existing hard copy documentation can be recycled after the information has been transferred to the electronic medium. Though unauthorized access to electronic data can be an issue, proper security precautions can reduce the threat level to almost non-existent. Using high level encryption during data transfers and conservative password policies will eliminate the majority of the problems associated with hackers and others who attempt to access data, internally or otherwise. It's interesting to note that the onset of the computer age will have a far greater impact on the tendencies of businesses to eventually follow the popularity of purely or majority electronic medium. When paper documents create a lag in the time it takes to conduct business, revenue is lost.
Most businesses in most industries have to maintain a minimum level of technology to continue to be viable entities.
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