Try as one may, it remains difficult to fully eradicate the use of paper in any office. This need for a paper trail creates many issues, from musty filing cabinets to the environmental cost. Despite the presence of technology that on paper (pardon the pun) makes for a paperless office, systemic inertia ensures that change is slow. If you're running a small office however, it's much easier to change and one device that will smoothen the transition is the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500.
There are smaller scanners out there, like the NeatScan to Office portable scanner, but the Fujitsu ScanSnap is fairly portable (around 3kg) if you need to move it. It's meant however to stake a place next to your printer, fax machine or AIOs. In fact, you may even wonder why get a scanner when AIOs can do everything. The answer simply is that these dedicated machines are generally faster than one that tries to do everything.
And make no mistake, the ScanSnap S1500 is blazing fast, capable of doing 20 pages per minute with up to 600dpi resolution and in duplex mode. With an automatic document feeder for 50 pages, you can put down an entire stack of documents and let it rip, though they will be done in no time.
Not only does it scan your typical A4 documents, it can handle other common 'paperwork' like receipts, letters and business cards (A4 is the maximum width). You can even mix the size of the documents in the feeder, as Fujitsu claims that its ultrasonic multi-feed detection sensor will know what's the right size for each document and also whether they are single or double-sided and handle accordingly.
In short, it's as easy as loading your documents and pressing the only button on the ScanSnap to start the scanning. We did encounter a incident when our documents jammed but that was due to us being overly ambitious. A simple switch allowed us to easily open up the scanner feed to remove the paper jam.
The hardware is only as good as the software. In this department, Fujitsu has done a very thorough job. There's ScanSnap Organizer to manage, edit and view the scanned files, a business card application CardMinder that can extract and export the information to Excel, Outlook or other contact software. Finally, there's also ABBYY FineReader that can scan your documents directly into Word or Excel and Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard for additional features like password protecting your PDF.
In total, the amount of software included will take up more than 1GB of space when installed fully and they are user friendly enough while providing more advanced features for those who require that. One feature that the ScanSnap doesn't support is TWAIN, a standard software protocol for communications between imagining devices like scanners and digital cameras.
It's not like us to wax lyrical about a scanner but the Fujitsu ScanSnap was really fast and simple to use. Perhaps the AIOs and their sometimes complex settings and controls have added more hassle to a relatively straightforward task. In any case, the ScanSnap S1500 has no doubt distinguished itself in our test. At around US$400 with a 1-year warranty, it's not exactly cheap but if you need a capable and fast scanner, it's worth the price for the time and trouble you'll save.