When is a scanner like a shredder?

I expect most of you will have heard some amusing anecdote about somebody at work confusing the scanner (or fax machine, depending on story vintage) with the shredder with amusing consequences.

For about a year and a half we’ve been purging the paperwork around the house using a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. Interesting newspaper clippings, business letters, account statements, etc. – items that we didn’t need to keep physical copies of – could now be scanned onto the hard disk and then the paper version shredded.

Everything seemed to have been going well until we noticed some text when using the scanning software that we hadn’t been paying much attention to before. Words like “temporary folder”.

ScanSnap creates a folder to put scanned images into and the default is to DELETE files older than 10 days.


Now we’ve been saving documents into various directories, sometimes the default FolderScan folder, depending on who was doing the scanning and what was being scanned. Those images and documents which were created in the FolderScan folder may have subsequently been moved to somewhere else … or maybe they weren’t. The nagging feeling I’d had on occasion that there seemed to be less images than expected was now explained. It wasn’t that my wife had tidied up the folder – Fujitsu had instead … with a flamethrower.

If I’ve understood the Options dialogue box correctly, there’s a good chance a number of documents we wanted to keep are now gone forever without any way of knowing what they were. I’m tempted to scan something and come back in 10 days’ time to see if the file has disappeared or not because I find it hard to believe any company would be so stupid as to automatically delete customer data by design. Through incompetent coding and testing, sure, data loss happens but it shouldn’t be part of the specification.

The important paperwork we still have, although it will be archived away somewhere in the house. This had been scanned, along with pre-digital photographs, as a backup to be stored off-site in case of accidental loss or damage.

So, currently, I have a sinking feeling that I now have a backup which has holes in it and the only way to find out what’s missing is to do a full manual audit comparing existing paperwork and photos with the digital archive. Joy.

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