What is the Difference Between
Scanning and Digitizing?

Posted on September 9, 2022

Going paperless? As you move from paper to digital, you’re likely to encounter the words “scanning” and “digitizing.” But before you fall into the common pitfall of lumping these two terms together, here’s a brief guide to help you discover how they differ. Read on.

Scanning vs. Digitizing: What’s the Difference?

Scanning is often interchanged with digitizing and vice versa. But there’s actually a fine line that separates the two. Knowing their differences is a step to securing a successful enterprise content management system. Find out more below.

What is scanning?

Scanning refers to the process of converting paper-copy materials into digital format through the use of a scanner. When you scan a physical document, you create a static digital copy of it, which can be stored, viewed, and shared on a computer and other digital devices to comply with government regulatory requirements.

How does it work?

When you scan a paper-copy material, you create a digital replica of that document, which you can store, view, and share on your digital devices such as your laptop or computer. 


Scanning machines come with superior lighting, advanced focus ability, and impressive scaling features to help create the exact digital equivalent of your document. You may also opt to convert physical documents into various file types, such as PDF, TIFF, or JPEG.



Generally, there are many reasons why enterprises resort to scanning their physical documents. But the primary reason is to comply with government regulatory requirements. Unlike physical materials, scanned documents can be encrypted, organized, indexed, and stored in a highly-secured cloud. Organizations can also apply retention policies on digital files easily. 

What should you scan?

Since scanning creates static, digital copies of documents, the method is used primarily to preserve records that are already in their permanent form or those that require no further editing. They are kept mainly to serve as evidence of a transaction, establish duties or obligations of a party,  or simply comply with the appropriate retention period. 


Common examples of these business records include:

  • Invoices
  • Personal data (e.g. birth certificates, medical records, etc.)
  • Contracts and agreements
  • Licenses
  • Final reports

What is digitizing?

Digitizing refers to the process of converting analog information into a digital copy with the intent of collaborating, sharing, routing, and updating electronic documents before they are translated into their final form.

How is it done?

Broadly speaking, digitizing refers to the process of converting analog information to a digital copy to make it readable by digital devices, such as computers and smartphones. In the context of documentation, digitizing can be done by:


  • Using document management platforms such as Word, Excel, or Powerpoint to convert unstructured data into machine-readable formats; or
  • By leveraging scanned documents, extracting valuable information from the said files, and saving the data in a central repository. 



The primary reason why enterprises digitize their documents is for automation. When we digitize documents, we turn them into machine-readable formats, such as XML, JSON, CSV, and TXT. When this happens, computer systems and other advanced software products can handle and process the information contained in the files. This leads to easier collaboration, speedier search and retrieval of content, and simplified management of information. 


What to digitize?

While we scan records that are already complete and final, we often digitize documents that are alive and changing. These refer to files that are actively in use. They evolve and pass through different revisions and updates before they reach their final forms. 


Common examples of these include:

  • Process maps
  • Business plans
  • Operations report
  • Work instructions
  • Draft communications


In short, scanning is just a part of the more complex process of digitizing documents. Scanning ends by simply creating a digital copy of your paper-based document; digitization goes beyond that. It incorporates additional technologies to make the digital copy susceptible to revisions, collaborations, and further manipulations. 

We can summarize the differences between the two concepts as follows:





The process of converting paper-copy materials into digital format through the use of a scanner

The process of converting analog information into a digital copy.


To comply with regulatory requirements

To enable collaboration, easy sharing of information, routing, and updating electronic documents before they are translated into their final form.

Materials to scan/digitize

Records that are in their permanent form or those that require no further editing.

Documents that are alive and actively in use. 

A Final Note

Understanding “scanning” and “digitizing” are your doorway to a successful content management system. However, it’s good to note that while these two pertain to different processes, they are in no way in conflict with each other. In fact, the two work hand-in-hand as document digitization usually begins with the scanning of paper documents. A good document management system (DMS) solution combines these two processes to help enterprises effectively manage their documents and records.

Got Documents You Need to Scan or Digitize?

Ready to go paperless? Infobuilder Technologies strives to help guide businesses towards paperless, presenceless transactions. We offer innovative document management solutions and products to address our customers’ challenges in managing the entire lifecycle of enterprise content. Our services include scanning services, DMS implementation, and more.


You may contact us at (+63) 917 715 0203 / (02) 5310 1021 or submit your inquiries here.

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