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How to scan documents directly to Google Drive

Many networked scanners and multifunction devices allow you to send scans directly to Google Drive. Here’s how to set it up.

The world is not yet fully digital. The organizations I work with still deal with a lot of paper documents in the form of letters, handouts, articles, photos, or reference materials. While many of these organizations used Google Drive and G Suite, most of the documents scanned to a local computer or server.

Recently, however, these organizations have moved to scan-to-cloud storage configurations. Scanned documents now go directly to Google Drive. Unlike files stored locally, documents on Google Drive are easy to to share, accessible from anywhere and easy to find with Cloud search, which offers a keyword search (like Google search, but for your organization’s G Suite data).

To enable the ability to scan directly to Google Drive, you’ll need a network-connected scanner – or a multi-function printer / scanner – that supports a Google Drive connection. For example, I configured Brother and HP printers to scan directly to Google Drive. You will also need to access both a web browser and the Google Account where you want to store the scanned items. Follow the steps below to connect your scanner to Google Drive.

1. Select the Google Drive app on your scanner

When you select scan, you will usually see destinations such as computer, SD card, or email.

Instead, search for Google Drive somewhere in the Applications option of your scanner. You’ll probably have to go through a few menus on your device to find it. Once you’ve located it, open it to start the connection process. (Note: You may need to register your device with the manufacturer’s web services before continuing.)

2. Sign in to a Google account

Switch to your browser and navigate to the address listed on your scanner / printer. For example, while setting up scan to cloud for an HP printer, I opened my browser to Specify the Google account to receive your scans using your Gmail or G Suite address. In an organizational setting, you can create an account specifically for the device. (If you do this, you can also share the destination folder with people who will scan documents.)

Then enter the code displayed on your scanner / printer in the browser, while being logged into the same Google account chosen above. This establishes that you have control of both the Google account and the scanner / printer.

3. Protect yourself with a PIN code

Protect your account with a PIN code, especially in an office. Once configured, you will need to enter the PIN code each time you use the Google Drive app to scan. This protects your account in two ways: you’ll prevent unwanted items from being scanned into your account, and you’ll also prevent unauthorized access to your Google Drive documents. Without a PIN code, anyone with access to your printer can browse and print files. from Google Drive.

4. Configure scan options

On most devices, you can also choose from at least a few scanning options. These include things such as:

  • Color or grayscale,
  • Resolution (for example, 75, 200, 300 dots per inch, etc.)
  • File format (e.g. PDF, JPG, PNG, etc.)
  • Input (flatbed or document feeder)

Your choice of file format will vary depending on the type of items you are scanning. If you are scanning documents, choose PDF (or searchable PDF, if available) as the default scanned file format. Otherwise, select PNG or TIFF (or JPG, if neither option is available) if the items you scan most often are photos or images.

I suggest you scan in color and at the highest resolution available, especially if you intend to save your scans for long term reference. Better scans require more storage and take longer, but Google Drive storage costs are relatively small (and in some cases already unlimited) and the time saving for lower resolution options, in most cases, is negligible. Documents scanned at low resolution today may compare poorly to documents scanned in the future, as imaging, display and printing technologies are only likely to improve. Unless you need to save time or storage space, capture the best analysis your device allows.

Repeat for additional accounts

Repeat the above process to allow your device to send scans to different Google Accounts or with different settings. For example, in an office, I connected a Brother printer to two different Google accounts and saved two scan shortcuts – one for flatbed images, the other for document feeder scans – for each. The four shortcuts allowed each staff member to press a button, enter their PIN, and quickly scan different types of source documents.

Scan with your phone

You can also use your phone to scan items to Google Drive. Google Drive Android app supports multi-page document scanning. Third-party applications, such as Scanbot Where CamScanner, also supports automatic upload of multi-page scans to Google Drive. (Scanbot and CamScanner offer both Android and iOS apps.) And those from Google Photo scanning app does a great job of capturing and converting photos to digital files. However, a desktop scanner will likely be faster if you want to scan multiple page two-sided documents.

Have you configured your scanner to send scans directly to Google Drive? If so, what default scan settings do you use? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).

Also look

Vector illustration: single page red-right arrow (left) to scanner red-right arrow to Google Drive icon

Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

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