Imaging is simply making an electronic version of a piece of paper and storing it on a computer. Mostly you use a device called a "scanner" to take a picture of the document and convert it into a format that the computer can use.
Imaging has several benefits. Some examples are:
Faster retrieval of documents — instead of going to a file cabinet, all of the documents are available from a user's workstation. Reduction of filing space — once documents are scanned, the physical copies are not needed to be easily accessible. They could either be destroyed or moved to an off-site storage location. Wider access to documents — if documents need to be widely shared, an imaging solution makes it possible to have a single copy of a document be available to everyone through their web browsers.
There are three primary parts to imaging — scanning, indexing, and retrieving documents.
Scanning — this is taking a physical piece of paper and running it through a scanner. This also includes ensuring that the document was scanned correctly — not upside down, or too dark, or otherwise flawed. Indexing — this is the process of assigning "keys" to the document. It tells the system what it should call this document, and details the various ways you can try to find the document in the future. In the same way that you put a document in a folder in a filing cabinet, you need to assign keys to a document so that you know how to find it in the future. Retrieving — once a document has been stored in the system, you need to be able to get it back and view it. Retrieving a document is done by searching on one or more of the index keys. In the same way that a good filing system allows for easy retrieval of paper documents, a good index key system allows for easy retrieval of electronic documents.