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The Mother of All Network Scanners

The Canon ScanFront 220P surpasses expectations.

Helen Modly, 09/11/2008

How much money have we wasted on technology that never lived up to our expectations? In spite of all the benefits of going paperless, scanning paper into digital files and then organizing, storing and sharing them is a pain for all of us.

We stumbled onto a small workhorse of a scanner that is simply too good to be true. I know that practice technology is usually the purview of Joel Bruckenstein, but I hope he won't mind me sharing this little gem with you.

ScanFront's Basics
"
Little gem" is an accurate description of the Canon ScanFront 220P. It is little, about 12 inches x 9 inches x6 inches high, weighs only 7.5 pounds, and it is actually pretty, with its white exterior and large 8.5-inch blue touchscreen. This scanner is a sheet feed design than can handle a wide range of paper sizes from 2 inches to 8.5 inches wide and 2.12 inches to 14 inches tall, including most business cards and even driver's licenses. It will scan a stack of 50 pages extremely quickly in either simplex or duplex mode with automatic misfeed and double-feed sensors that stop the stack when there is a problem. It handles black and white, grayscale, and color with a daily duty cycle of 1,000 pages. Ok, but so do a lot of scanners, and there are dozens available for less than the $1,800 the ScanFront will set you back. What makes this one so special?

What it Needs to Do
Let's look at a typical scanning operation. You hand a box of files to an assistant and after instructing him or her on how to name each one, you have them scanned into a folder on some computer. There they must be opened to verify that all pages have been captured and then move the file to its permanent storage location. In the process, the assistant will invariably have to deal with some pages being single-sided and some printed on both sides. Either they make a copy of the second side and then scan them together as a single-sided file, or they flip from simplex to duplex scanning for those pages and then flip back. Or, they scan the entire stack as duplex and then delete the blank pages when they review the scanned file.

The Wow Factor
Some scanners have an alphanumeric function enabling you to name the file from the scanner. Most will let you select a file option such as .tiff, .jpg or .pdf. This is often a slow tedious process much like texting on a cellphone. Many small scanners are network-enabled but will only scan to a dedicated computer and not directly to a LAN server. Some expensive models allow you to pre-assign a few network folders as a scan destination, and a few will also allow you to scan directly to an e-mail address. Some of the newer ones will let you scan directly to a USB memory key. The ScanFront has all of these features and three others that sold us on shelling out the $1,800 several months ago.

Amazing Network Interface
Not only will the ScanFront scan to any shared folder on any computer connected to your network, but it will scan directly to a FTP network server. In fact, you can create multiple address books as Excel worksheets and import them into the ScanFront via its Web interface. Each user can use their regular network login/id to access the FTP server from the ScanFront or, even better, just swipe their finger over the little reader on the front and have automatic access.

This ability to create a fully functional address book allows us to save each scan directly into its permanent storage folder on the network. You can use the qwerty keyboard that appears on the screen or you can actually attach a regular keyboard to the ScanFront to speedily enter filenames and locations.

Intuitive Touchscreen with Preview
The large touchscreen on this unit is truly intuitive to use.

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