Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 35 seconds

The sleepy little category that used to be computer scanners came awake in the last year, and the impact on the accounting marketplace is impressive. A half dozen vendors offer robust, duplex scanners in both color and grayscale that automatically correct for misfeeds and work transparently with software that can tab, index and bar-code individual documents for better client file management.

Notable is the incursion of Kyocera, the Japanese technology company, into the document management space. With a strong national advertising campaign, Kyocera would seem to be well positioned to take on market leader Fujitsu. Would seem to be, that is, except that they don't have a scanner line yet that can go head-to-head with the least desktop products from Canon or Visioneer, much less a Fujitsu workgroup scanner. Their best scanning solution today is part of a multi-function printer, and doesn't have the power to easily handle the needs of an accounting firm during tax season.

But the other end of the market has also come alive. Nimble younger vendors like Neat and Ambir Technology are breaking the price/performance curve by using advanced technologies and meeting the needs of business offices in unique ways.

In the past, we have considered mid-range scanners in a price range of $250 and up. But for a successful accounting office, a more substantial workgroup scanner is a necessity, so this review considers the best of the workgroup class, and presents them here. Even here, the choices can be tough simply because the scanners are so close in performance. With little to differentiate one from another, the choice as to which workgroup scanner to select and use becomes a matter of choice based primarily on aesthetics and support policies.

Ambir ImageScan Pro 940u
Price $895
Footprint 9 x 11
Document Feed 100 SheetsSpeed 40 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI                                                           
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 14
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows

Ambir ImageScan Pro 940u
The ImageScan Pro 940u scanner (with ultrasonic misfeed detection) has developed a reputation for strong performance in a workgroup environment, where it delivers fast, efficient scanning for sizable document management needs. This scanner processes two-sided documents with only one pass-through and detects misfeeds and paper jams before they happen.

Customizable scanning buttons allow the automation of a large number of scanning and document handling tasks for more efficiency. It scans business cards as well as plastic cards, and with its high-speed processing capabilities is ideal for large volume environments. The scanner is capable of a 3,000-page-per-day duty cycle.

The Twain driver automatically rotates pages, adjusts brightness and autocrops images to minimize file size and increase optical character recognition (OCR) accuracy, and an ISIS driver is available for even broader compatibility. Other Twain features include: auto page sizing, blank page removal and auto de-skew. The ImageScan Pro 940u comes with a robust software bundle that includes Presto! PageManager and the ABBYY FineReader to turn scanned documents into searchable files via OCR.

Canon DR-M160
Price $879
Footprint 9 x 11
Document Feed 60 Sheets
Speed 60 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 14
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows

Canon DR-M160
In the marketplace for workgroup scanners, the Canon DR-M160 has held a strong position for several years due to a compelling balance of price and features. In particular, it features beefed-up rollers for the document feed and strong paper correction capabilities that make it a strong candidate for use in an accounting office. It performs dual-side scanning in a single pass, pushes the documents through at a rate of 60 pages per minute, and offers front-panel configurations that automate scanning of the most common types of documents.

The included software includes Canon's CaptureOn Touch, a one-touch solution that allows nine configurable scan profiles for more effective workflow; CapturePerfect, which enables users to share information using cloud applications; Kofax VRS; and eCopy PDF Pro from Nuance, with a variety of DRM and PDF capabilities. CaptureOnTouch and CapturePerfect enable users to share information using cloud applications such as Microsoft SharePoint.

This is a Twain/ISIS-compliant scanner with a relatively small footprint, and while the paper feeder holds only 60 sheets, the unit handles auto-feed documents with a small number of problems or jams.

Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S80 Color Document Scanner
Price $679
Footprint 16 x 11.5
Document Feed 75 Sheets
Speed 40 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 36
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows and Mac

Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S80 Color Document Scanner
While Epson offers a number of more economical scanning products, even in its "workgroup" line, the product that would most clearly meet the demands of a full tax season is the Workforce Pro GT-S80.

The GT-S80 features 10 user-definable scan jobs for easy one-touch scanning including Scan to PDF. The Epson Event Manager software allows creation of customized scan jobs, specifying resolution, file output type, image type and whether an image is saved to a file or launched into another application.
And its two-line-by-16-character LCD displays scan jobs with job titles, and settings making it easy to choose and start a scan.

The Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S80 features a 75-page automatic document feeder capable of scan speeds up to 40 ppm simplex, 80 images per minute duplex. With its dual CCD sensors, the WorkForce Pro GT-S80 is able to scan both sides of a sheet in just one pass. The ADF can accommodate documents up to 8.5x36 inches including stacks of mixed sizes that can be automatically recognized and cropped. Adding to the versatility, the GT-S80 can scan business cards directly into the included NewSoft Presto BizCard software.

Fujitsu Document Scanner fi-7160
Price $875
Footprint 11.8 x 6.7 x 6.4 in.
Document Feed 80 sheets
Speed 60 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 300 DPI
USB 3.0 Yes
Platform(s) Windows and Mac

Fujitsu Document Scanner fi-7160
Fujitsu has made some major strides in the past two years, introducing a few innovations and honing it pricing. These changes, competition aside, are enough to keep the company at the top of its game.

The Fujitsu line of workgroup scanners now offers more economical models beginning with the Fi-6110. But out choice is the Fi-7160/7260 models, with the sheet-fed model retailing for about $875 and the combination sheet-fed/flatbed model retailing for about $1,500. The Fi7160 offers duplex scanning speeds of 120 images per minute at 300 DPI in Color, Grayscale, and Monochrome, and is designed for single-pass data capture and document cleanup. Reliability is enhanced even further with new skew prevention technology for exceptional paper handling.

The PaperStream IP driver offers both Twain and ISIS compatibility when scanning invoices, ID cards, receipts, forms, or cardstock. PaperStream IP automatically improves the image quality, removes unwanted backgrounds, and optimizes the scanned images for optical character recognition. Assisted Scan, a new application, allows users to replace poor images by visually selecting the image they lack rather than learning driver settings. If driver settings need to be adjusted for rare and difficult documents, a preview function allows scan operators to see their adjustments in real-time without time consuming re-scans.

NeatConnect Cloud Scanner
Price $450.00
Footprint 11 x 8.7
Document Feed 50 Sheets
Speed 24 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 30
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows and Mac

NeatConnect
You could easily argue that the NeatConnect Cloud Scanner and Digital Filing System doesn't qualify as a workgroup scanner, and you might be right. This year. Remember that Neat cut its teeth on scanning and organizing little slips of paper, and has now moved up the sophistication scale to include the ability to scan in documents and organize them into PDF books.

It has some features that accounting and other financial firms can't utilize for client files, chief among them the scan-to-email and scan-to-cloud applications. Neither of these meet the requirements of Sarbanes Oxley or the Gramm-Leach-Bliley bills for secure communication of client data. But for use within the accounting firm for quick scans and organization, this is an economical introduction to the ease of scanning and document management.

This is scanning hardware to keep an eye on, as the company continues to develop its product lines and become more oriented toward businesses in the SME marketplace.

Visioneer Patriot 480
Price $718
Footprint 13 x 7
Document Feed 50 Sheets
Speed 37 ppm
Twain Compliant Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 38
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows and Mac

Visioneer Patriot 480
The Visioneer Patriot 480 was designed to assist financial and other firms that needed to comply with the client privacy demands of the Patriot Act (and subsequent laws). Though slightly slower than some competitors, the Patriot 480 packs a fairly robust duty cycle of 3,000 pages per day, which is substantially better than the norm. And its price point makes it an attractive option for a workgroup scanner in any accounting or tax firm.

It is powered by Visioneer OneTouch technology to scan documents via up to nine preset destinations. This means that with the touch of a button, your document is scanned with the proper settings for resolution, color, duplex, auto-crop, auto-straighten, file format, and then delivered to virtually any application, folder or device.

Ultrasonic Double Feed Detection is built into the Patriot 480 to handle misfeeds and stapled documents. Kofax VRS (Virtual ReScan) is integrated into the scanner, eliminating the need to rescan documents through automatic cropping, straightening, brightness control and edge cleanup. Also packaged with the scanner is the Nuance OmniPage Pro and Nuance PaperPort software.

Xerox Documate 5445
Price $650
Footprint 17 x 15
Document Feed 75 Sheets
Speed 45 ppm
Twain Compliant Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size 8.5 x 100
USB 3.0 No
Platform(s) Windows

Xerox Documate 5445
The DocuMate 5445 can quickly convert a large number of documents into electronic data, so it provides smooth usage even in offices with many users. One reason is the unique design of the paper feed rollers, which rotate independently left and right to reduce document skewing during scanning. In addition, the active double-feed prevention roller reverses rotation the instant that the leading document leaves the paper feed section to prevent the double-feeding of documents that are simply stuck together. However, there are documents for which scanning should not be stopped even when double-feeding is detected. Those include envelopes and documents with sticky notes attached. When the DocuMate 5445 pauses at one of these documents, scanning is easily resumed with the touch of a button.

Visioneer OneTouch provides scanning presets at the optimal resolution, color depth, file format and paper size for common scanning tasks, which can also be easily changed at any time. Other software included with the scanner includes DriverPLUS, which combines the features of advanced 32- and 64-bit native Windows-based Twain and WIA drivers plus new Acuity optimization software and a sophisticated user interface. Nuance PaperPort saves time and money by transforming paper documents into searchable digital documents. And OmniPage Pro quickly turns scanned documents into editable, formatted text. The text can then be used in virtually any word processing, desktop publishing or web publishing program.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 March 2014
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