Business-like, isn't he?



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    Local companies can help cut the office paper chase

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver December 12-18, 2006; issue 894

    High Tech Office column

    With business and home users churning out seemingly ever-increasing stacks of paper printouts of digital documents, the long-promised paperless office seems as far away as ever.

    Paper has advantages: it’s high resolution, portable and needs little training to use. Paper is like comfort food.

    But paper in large quantities requires a lot of room for storage and gets increasingly hard to search. Misfile a paper document, and its contents can effectively disappear.

    Still, even in this digital age, we’re addicted to paper. Often I receive e-mail that I’m asked to print out, sign and fax back.

    A 1993 New Yorker cartoon featured a clever canine pointing out that “on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

    This anonymity can be a barrier to conducting business. As a result, it has seemed easier (and more legally binding) to work with printed documents.

    Local company Recombo’s Waypoint service allows businesses to dispense with signatures on paper while knowing whether someone online is a dog or a customer.

    Waypoint allows organizations to use verifiable and legally binding digital signatures to complete contracts and other agreements.

    Recently updated to version 2.0, Waypoint integrates with Microsoft Outlook or software, adding Recombo’s plug-ins to securely send encrypted Word or PDF documents as attachments. The original documents are not stored by Waypoint, but a record of the transaction is kept centrally using Waypoint’s “Transportable Agreement” process.

    Recombo’s partner, Equinox, verifies that customer’s, partner’s or supplier’s identity in under 20 seconds. This allows digitally signed or initialed documents to be legally binding; no printed or faxed copies needed.

    Multiple signatures and signers are supported, allowing for co-lessees, guarantors or partners. Real-time reporting lets users track who has received the attachments, who has signed off and which signatures are still pending.

    Recombo keeps a complete audit trail. Detailed records of all interactions are readily available. The sender receives notification when all parties have signed.

    Only the originator of the documents needs to be a Recombo customer.

    Recipients have no need to download anything to sign on the digital dotted line, though they will need to register with Equinox for identity verification.

    According to Innovative Innovations Inc., a typical businessperson spends an hour a day searching for paper documents. Paper documents cost companies money to print, store and mail or courier to clients.

    Innovative Innovations is helping businesses eliminate storage of paper by scanning correspondence, receipts and more while providing certifiable (and searchable) digital copies that are stored off-site. Clients range from one- and two-person companies to the Vancouver Port Authority and the provincial Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

    Scanned documents are stored as high-quality TIFF graphics. At the same time, optical character recognition software creates an index-able text version of the page.

    This gives users of the service easily searchable access to all scanned documents any time from anywhere using any web browser. Documents are backed up across multiple servers for reliable access. Encryption ensures that your stored documents are not available online to just any Internet-using dog.

    Recombo and Innovative Innovations Inc. prove that digital replacements for paper can help businesses improve their bottom lines.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan