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Cost Effective Scan-to-FTP Products? 63

An anonymous reader asks: "The law firm I work for uses a document routing system that picks up TIFFs or PDFs in server directory and processes them. We're using digital copiers with scan-to-FTP functionality to get them to the server's input directory. So, we need a cheap, easy to use unit for doing scan-to-FTP (or SMB). Copiers are just too expensive to sprinkle around a floor and PC-scanner solutions are just too big, complicated and time intensive for the users. I have found a couple possibilities doing web searches, but I'm still wondering what other Slashdot readers are using for this."
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Cost Effective Scan-to-FTP Products?

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  • I have to say that I don't really know your requirements. You seem to need to digitise documents (and possibly OCR them) and then send them somewhere with a networking protocol. You mention FTP and SMB.

    Start by breaking this down into components:

    • Scanning
    • OCR
    • File transfer

    But your text indicates that you already have all of these components in place, so why are you looking for another solution? Is it just the cost?

    Implied is the need to store the scanned documents in a database of some kind. Perhaps th

    • He wants a scanner that you press a button and it scans and then send the scanned image to a preconfigured FTP/SMB address... so he can digitalize a lot of stuff in parallel and without using dedicated scanner/pc pairs.
      • I've used an older version of this [hp.com], the HP Digital Sender. It fits the bill except it comes with a heafty bill. Maybe their lease option is acceptable. Not worth the cash in my estimation, but they have a niche.
    • Re:Too few steps? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MindStalker ( 22827 )
      But your text indicates that you already have all of these components in place, so why are you looking for another solution? Is it just the cost?

      Yes he does, many copiers do this today (by copier I mean the large classic xerox sytle not the small 4 in 1 thingies), you simply plug in a network cable setup the ftp information and press scan.

      He obviously wants several of these stations, but doesn't see the need in purchasing $10K+ copiers, instead wants to know if any small 4 in 1 or flatbed scanner can do thi
  • by AwaxSlashdot ( 600672 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @06:44AM (#14914545) Homepage Journal

    I own a Canon LIDE-50 scanner (2 years old, runs from USB power, fast and precise). It was bundled with a small utility and has 4 buttons on its front side.
    I can assign realy basic actions to each button with the utility:

    • Scan and print
    • Scan and mail
    • Scan and launch OCR
    • Scan and save to disc
    • Scan and launch application
    • ...

    For your problem, you can:

    • scan and save to mounted SMB share
    • scan and launch simple BAT file uploading via FTP the file passed as parameter

    Your workflow becomes:

    1. place document on scanner
    2. press button
    3. next!

    AWx
    • I forgot: use a PC-scanner linked to a MiniITX box.
    • You missed two vital /. steps: 4. ??? 5. Profit (although I doubt many lawyers have this problem)
    • Those are nice little scanners. I've got a 30 myself. But I think for what this guy is doing he's going to want a large unit with an automatic feeder tray so he can toss in a multi-page document, hit the button, and have it all go to file. The LIDE-50 just isnt' going to cut it for that.
      • They cost around $900 each, but the fi-5120C2 my company recommends to our customers are very nice scanners -- auto document feed (just throw stuff in the hopper), full-duplex full-color scanning at up to 25 pages per minute. (Mind you, you need a faster connection than USB1 for that full speed if you're going to be doing more than 200DPI black-and-white images. They support both USB2 and SCSI, but we've only tested USB2 -- but even with that you need to cut down the quality if you need the full 25 pages pe
  • SANE and scripting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @06:49AM (#14914559)
    There's no reason to buy something off-the-shelf for this -- SANE's scanadf (with one of the drivers which can detect the scanner's start button press -- I just hacked up a solution for this with a slightly modified version of SANE's Fujitsu drivers and a less slightly modified version of the buttonpress detection tool out of SANE's "experimental" CVS module yesterday), in conjunction with a script for doing the upload, will do the trick. (Alternately, you could use NFS, SMBFS, DAVFS, etc. in place of FTP and just do a simple filesystem mount; I'd consider that more straightforward). I typically call scanadf with a filename based on the current timestamp -- so push the button and all the papers in your hopper come out as files named on the date/time the scan was started and the page# (based on ordering within the ADF). This means you need to have reasonable defaults for your scanning settings if you're going to do the single-button-press thing -- but for my purposes, 300DPI black-and-white works for just 'bout everything.

    As an aside: One of my personal projects is building an setup that uses SANE, HylaFAX+iaxphone+asterisk and CUPS to scan items to a network drive (either shared space or, if they log in, password-protected space; this latter functionality is important for HR and other folks handling confidential documents); scan items to an outgoing fax; allow folks to print incoming faxes queued in their name and all that other nifty jazz. Don't know when I'll actually have something ready for release, though -- might be a bit, particularly as taking something I threw together as a once-off (which this will be, at first) and packaging it up for redistribution and reuse takes time.
    • To save some money and or space you could use an NSLU to host the scaner. It runs Linux, has two USB ports, and a network connection.
  • they're called 'folders'. you put 'paper' in them.
    they can be 'boxed' or put in 'filing cabinets'.
  • Why don't you look into the possibility of getting some HP LaserJet 4345MFP printers? If your only going to be doing scanning, you can get the HP 9200C digital sender. You can link it with the DSS 4 software and make it do anything you want. Don't know if it's out of your price range, but I'm sure you could get it to do whatever you wanted to do. Yes, I do work with these devices on a daily basis. Not neccessarly with scan to FTP, but I know that the function is there.
    • Second the HP digital sender, we just got one in the office and it seems to be a pretty good device.

      The earlier versions (at least), the network scanjet 4 can run linux and do sane+scripting which is well regarded.
      • Third the HP digital sender. We have had one of these in the office for several months. This is a university department so many of the staff and faculty use it regularly. It scans very fast (about as fast as the auto feed on a photo-copier) and it is relatively easy to use.

        I don't know off hand if you can set it up to send the documents to a default location though. We have it set up so that each person logs in and chooses to either send the digital document by email or to a SMB mounted drive. The to

  • Laptops + Flatbeds (Score:3, Informative)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <[gro.daetsriek] [ta] [todhsals]> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @08:09AM (#14914751) Homepage
    Get a bunch of old surplus laptops - any P300 or higher would be fine. Turn off hibernation on the laptops so they stay on when closed. Get some flatbed scanners, place them on top of the laptops.

    With any number of software packages, or some simple shell scripting in Linux, automate the scanning so that when they put in a document and press the 'Scan' button, it will do whatever you want. So, just make it scan into a format and copy it to the FTP server.

    It shouldn't cost you more than $500 for every Laptop / Flatbed station you need.
    • +1, Informative AND +1, Insightful.
      Solves the problem at hand, with exactly the requirements the original post stated: little space, and fast in time.
      Kudos to you, my friend.
      • Somehow this solution seems penny wise and pound foolish. Lots of slow, unreliable, unstable systems (scanner perched on a laptop?), where it seems like a single high speed solution might be far better. There's probably other advantages to having copiers everywhere too, document feeders will definately be needed as well unless you'll only be facing single page digitation. And why risk old laptops, when new Mac mini's (or imitators) are cheap and available.

        Heck, I imagine everybody has their own machine, w

        • only the "penny wise" side :-)

          When the sole purpose of the laptops will be scan-and-ftp, a P300 is waaaay faster than any embedded thousand-dollar solution. Alas, it's possible that your embedded thousand-dollar solution is exactly that: a linux (or BSD/ECOS/QNX/whatever) running in a ColdFire (Motorola 68000) that grabs things via sane from the built-in scanner and FTPs it to the right place. A Mac Mini will cost something like US$ 500 -- which is US$ 100 more than the price of the combo P300 + flatbed sca
          • a P300 is waaaay faster than any embedded thousand-dollar solution.

            No. Not even in the same ballpark for the (apparently) intended use.


            So, yes, I fail to see the "pound foolish" side of things.

            Have you ever used a photocopier to scan to TIFFs?

            Ours at work, not a high-end model by any stretch of the imagination, can suck in somewhere around 50-100ppm (not copying, just scanning).

            With a flatbed scanner, even one with a sheet feeder, you might get 5ppm.

            As I understand it, the FP poster doesn't
    • Instead of the laptop, set up a LinkSys NSLU2 (From $80) with slugos (http://www.nslu2-linux.org/ [nslu2-linux.org]), and connect a USB-scanner to it. With some shellscripting, you should be ready to go :-)
      • Keep in mind that (even when overclocked) the NSLUs are SLOW. I used mine as a mail gateway briefly, but it took almost a full minute to run spamassassin on each incoming mail. Eventually, when the load went up, mail would get lost.

        Anyway, make sure you scanning software works with 32M of RAM. Swapping just doesn't work with the NSLU.
        • Keep in mind that (even when overclocked) the NSLUs are SLOW.

          Not "overclocked". From the factory, they're underclocked. Removing the resistor makes it run at the speed rated by Intel.

          I used mine as a mail gateway briefly, but it took almost a full minute to run spamassassin on each incoming mail. Eventually, when the load went up, mail would get lost.

          You just don't run apps like spamassassin on an embedded system. Scanning works just fine though, but of course it depends on the resolution you're scanning

  • This is why some companies need Linux/Unix, but don't realise it. As pointed out by that ImageMagick article [slashdot.org] earlier, sometimes having command-line tools rather than fancy GUI programs is extremely useful.

    What is needed here is a shell script.

    Windows does have (limited) scripting capabilities, but is severely lacking any good command-line programs.
    • See, TWAIN integrates the GUI into the scanner driver -- so you can't have a shell script that kicks off a scan without the driver having specific support; ugh! The single-button scan solutions which are presently available for Windows are pretty much all proprietary to the individual scanner (far as I know), and not inherently pluggable.

      This is why SANE is so damn useful even on Windows -- it provides an API for scanner access which is completely frontend-agnostic.

      This is also why the folks talking about W
  • A couple of years ago I got to play with the first model line of the HP digital sender. Even back then they were quite easy to use and were designed with professional use in mind (read: designed to cope with hundreds of pages, not just fiddling around with one or two). They are not exactly cheap, though (starting around $3000 ), but should still be less expensive than a larger copier. They are also quite handy sizewise. More info here (no, I'm neither HP nor do I have any interests otherwise in them):

    http:/ [hp.com]
    • I've recently deployed 2 HP9200 Digital Senders here in our office and they've been great.

      I've got them set up with 2 options; users can either have their documents PDF'd and sent to them by email, or they can have them sent directly to a specific folder on the network (where our document management system automatically picks them up and routes them in).

      They're simple to use and they produce properly constructed PDF files. (2 of the biggest problems we had in the past with people scanning documents the 'ol
    • We're looking at exactly this device, and we're happy that our Libraries have taken the plunge ahead of us. This system allows pretty much ad hoc scan-to-PDF(or TIFF or whatever)-to-server utility. They use it in an email fashion, because everyone has an email account. Scans show up as attachments. Very slick. The quality and file sizes produced were quite usable.
  • I believe that s/he is seeking an interface, much like a standalone print-server, a little box with a USB connection for the scanner and an RJ45 for the network which will take the image, put it into a reasonable format, and sent the file someplace (SMB or FTP, or whatever). This replaces the PC (or the $500 old laptop) and allows you to have a networked scanner for $200. Devices like the HP DIgital Sender are very nice, but too expensive for what this person wants. This would be a cool thing to have.
  • I recently acquired a "broken" HP OfficeJet for nothing. Turned out not to be very broken after all; I can't get any yellow ink to come out for love nor money {and it cost me £50 just to find that out}, but it does mono copies fine {though at £25 for an ink cartridge, I can't imagine I will be making many copies} and it's also supported under GNU/Linux.

    You just need to get a scanner which is supported by SANE. That rules out a lot of the povvy cheap Windows-only ones. Write a BASH scrip
  • Rather than have a separate PC server at every scan location, you could buy USB scanners like the Fujitsu ScanSnap or Xerox Documate and use USB over Ethernet hubs (example [bb-elec.com]) to connect them as local hardware devices to a single PC server responsible for handling scan requests and routing the documents appropriately.
    • saned [penguin-breeder.org] will allow remoting for any scanner supported by SANE [sane-project.org], not just USB ones -- and it makes advanced scripting and such very easy. (Further, the SANE API [sane-project.org] is dirt simple to code for, so if there isn't already a tool that does what you're looking for it's easy to write or adopt one).
  • Over the past couple of years, I have purchased eight Dell 1600n laser printers (multi-function) to replace some older network printers in our small business. They have scanning capabilities, including autofeed of multiple docs (but not duplex scanning). These are stand-alone printers (no attending PC), so I needed a network scanning solution. Google revealed an open-source Perl script, dell1600n-net-scan.pl.

    The script attaches to a printer via TCP/IP. From the printer, the user selects the Start Scan b
  • Copiers are just too expensive to sprinkle around a floor and PC-scanner solutions are just too big, complicated and time intensive for the users.

    So I'm not sure what you are looking for? There is no 'magic wand' that will scan reams of paper and put them on an FTP site short of a mechanical solution. Either you get a relatively expensive unit that does it quickly, or get cheap desktop solutions that are slow and a PITA to use, IMO.

    As usual, you can have fast, cheap, or good - pick 2.

    We have a Konica C350
    • We have one of the c350's, so far i've only found pdf and tiff.. we're going to configure it eventually to have a scan to printer option, so we can scan something in, and have it print on a remote facilities laserjet.. basically skipping the fax machines.
  • I work for GFC. They are the largest printer/copier provider in the northern mid-west. If you are in the area I would recommend you give our sales guys a call. They can get you a custom fit solution that does exactly what you need at a price you can aford. Check us out online at http://www.gflesch.com/ [gflesch.com]

    -Rick
  • HP has a line called its "digital senders". They aren't cheap but they are standalone scanners (just hook up to a network - no computer needed) that are capable of scanning and sending directly to an email address or to a network share -- They also integrate with LDAP/active directory for lookups and are capable of high-volume scaning (ie. 50 pages at a time)

    • Having used digital sender, it is great... assuming you can hook up a keyboard to it (haven't looked to see if you can). It is a fast scanner that can scan to image or PDF and email or place the file in a network share (SMB). I haven't tried to send to a directory yet as I don't have much scanning to do, but I was very impressed with how it worked... by far much better than a scanner hooked up to a computer.
  • Considering you are looking for a product for a law firm I would recommend an easy to use product... Lawyers + Machines = Problem Check out the Panasonic DP-190 MFP. Much lower cost than the HP Digital Sender. Easier to use, easier to connect. Includes license free software that is VERY end user friendly. (Disclaimer: I sell this product, but also other brands as well. This is just the easiest for equipment challenged users) P.S.- Let me know here if you are interested in more info. Thanks!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We have three of these in my office.
    We got three Dell servers (400SCs or something), and three HP multifunctions. Two run headless, and one has KVM and a wide-format scanner. Dells go on sale for insanely low prices, and HP plays well with Linux. If you print big docs, it's especially worth it because those $100 printservers are garbage and printers directly attached to the network cost waaay more than a cheap server.

    We use some bash scripting and rsync to put them on our NAS, then interns to add metadata.
  • Axis of Sweden makes a Network Document Server that is a small (think mini ATX) linux appliance. It has a network port, an optional keyboard port, and a scsi or USB interface to drive multi-page scanners. Axis recommends which scanners work well and its most of the mutlipage scanners out there.

    We use one of these in lieu of having a copier in our office, so I went with the more expensive one so that I could attach a more powerful scanner to it, but the less expensive USB multipage scanners from Xerox and D
  • Possibly not ideal, but cheaper than copiers, the Lexmark T512 series of laser printers have an optional scanner attachment that allows scanning to ftp via ethernet. Auto sheet feeder as well. Quite a nice device.
  • You need one of those. I was looking for similar solution that wouldn cost over 1000 USD andonly scaner i forund in the range of 500 USD is this.

    http://www.fel.fujitsu.com/home/v3__wgroup.asp?wg= 40 [fujitsu.com]

    Scans a page form the feeder in about 4 seconds and dose both sides in one pass.
    Does directly to pdf. So they can be shared over net easily. Does take max about 20 pages.

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