Free Electronic Document Archival!

Everywhere you look today, brokerages are trying to make the transition to electronic document storage.  Data storage companies are happy to help you spend your hard earned money on their various solutions.  Complete systems to handle the task range from just under $10,000 to well over $40,000, depending on the amount of storage you intend to use, whether you intend to store on-site or off-site, the hardware you purchase, and many other options.  Starts making the old manila files look good doesn’t it?

What if I told you that you could easily store all your documents electronically and for free?  What if I told you that you won’t have to purchase any hardware?  Okay, what if I told you that your documents would be stored in one of the most secure data centers on planet earth?  And what if I told you that you could do it all by yourself?  I know… you’d think I was mad!  That I was crazy.  But I’m not.

Are you ready for the big secret?  Can you handle it?  Okay…. drum roll, please.  The answer is Gmail by Google.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  That’s right.  Gmail.  I fax my documents first to my free efax account (using where it converts them to PDF files and emails them back to me.  I then forward the documents to my dedicated Gmail account.  Because of the number of files I save, I open a new account for each year, and the only things I save in that Gmail account are my documents for that year.

I label them  by putting the address in the subject line of the email, and then I type the names of the various documents in the body of the email that has the attachment.  Very simple.  Very clean.  Why do I use Gmail?  Because Google is the master when it comes to search, and with a click of a mouse, I can instantly retrieve any document from any computer with an internet connection, and then review it, print it, or forward it.

But how safe are my documents?  Well, according to Google Director of Security Aaron Feigenbaum, “Everything in Gmail is backed up, and backed up in multiple data centers.  If something happened, users would never know.”  In years of using them, I have never lost a single email from a data disaster at Google.  During the same period, I’ve lost plenty of documents from my own computers, servers, hard drives, etc.

Of course, you may like the idea of spending enormous amounts of money on document storage that is neither safer nor easier to use.  For me, I’d rather spend the extra money on something that floats and carries me along the water.  But that’s just me.  And that’s Max-Bang!

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Comments 15

  1. author alan posted June 21st 2010. 11:53 am Reply

    Great “thinking outside the box” approach. Thanks for the tip!

    • author Matt Jones posted June 21st 2010. 12:02 pm Reply

      Thanks for reading, Alan, and for your comment. I’m the king of cheap… you’ll see what I mean in the final article in this series. If all goes well, it should be up in a couple of weeks, so check back. Thanks again for reading.

  2. author Travis Parker posted June 21st 2010. 12:07 pm Reply

    GREAT idea. I’ve done a similar simpler version by just emailing myself & labeling the email with it’s attachment. This sounds much better for the larger amount of documents I’ll eventually have.

    • author Matt Jones posted June 21st 2010. 5:14 pm Reply

      Thanks for reading, Travis, and for your comment.

  3. author Scott posted June 21st 2010. 1:53 pm Reply

    I really like this idea, but what tips do you have about organizing all these? Do you put dates in the subject line? Or names of clients? Or do you include that information – which you can then search in gmail – in the body of the e-mail?

    And do you do anything special when naming the files/PDFs? Certain format for the filenames?

    • author Matt Jones posted June 21st 2010. 5:24 pm Reply

      Thanks for reading and for your question. The beauty of Gmail is that they don’t require any organization. They use an archive system, so if I put the pertinent info in either the subject line or the body of the email, Gmail can instantly pull it up. For example, I use the address in the subject line. I can search for 123 4th Street, and instantly all the documents with that address will come up with their attachments. It is super easy. Thanks again!

  4. author John Mc Kenna posted June 21st 2010. 5:34 pm Reply

    Hey Matt – Great tip!

    I have actually been using Google Docs for my storage – I create a new folder for each listing / buyer. Works great – and can be accessed from anywhere in the world!

    FYI – My Office is really beginning to gather momentum and attention – from both the consumer and other real estate agents. We are literally swamped with leads right now — recruitment of agents is becoming my number one priority!! What a position to be in! I know we are going to dominate this market in no time!!! Great Stuff!!

    Take care and I will talk to you soon.

    John McKenna, MBA
    President/CEO McKenna Real Estate Group

    • author Matt Jones posted June 21st 2010. 5:40 pm Reply

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment and congratulations on the outrageous growth! Let’s catch up some time soon! As always, keep up the great work!

  5. author Roger Anderson posted June 22nd 2010. 12:41 pm Reply

    Matt, you are always giving us great ideas! I started in R/E in 1998 and finally let my license expire. However, I look forward to ALL of your information. (I am also the proud owner of two autographed copies of your books!) I dropped out of real estate because of all (or i should say the LACK of professionalism in this industry!) I really liked your article about hiring part time agents. When i was active, I was also employed as a Systems Analyst. I liked that combination BECAUSE i did not have to force my clients to buy or sell something because I needed to pay the rent. Now that I am retired, i plan to get back into the profession FULL TIME. Thanks for all your help. You and your column(s) have kept me interested in this business. Thanks again.

  6. author Vicki Entrekin posted June 25th 2010. 1:38 pm Reply

    Matt, thank you for the awesome idea! I have been scanning and storing all documents pertaining to each client on my hard drive. My external HD is just about full with all the information and if it ever crashed – I would be in a world of hurt. This is a great idea! I love reading your blogs – awesome work. Awesome ideas. Thank you!

    • author Matt Jones posted June 25th 2010. 1:39 pm Reply

      Thank you for such a nice comment! Glad you liked it.

  7. author MrSpeeb posted June 25th 2010. 10:28 pm Reply

    Not only is Gmail an extra step vs Google Docs as John Mc Kenna points out. With Google Docs you can create separate folders and share those exclusively with clients/agents/title and others that you may collaborate with. Google Docs supports most any file type.

    • author Matt Jones posted June 26th 2010. 9:45 am Reply

      Hi MrSpeeb, thanks for reading and for your comment. You and John are both correct in that Google Docs provides a great collaborative tool. In fact, my last 7 books (maybe 8, I’m not certain) were written in Google Docs.

      While it (GD) is a great platform to collaborate and to create, I don’t believe it is particularly good for archival, in that it is not designed for storing complete, PDF files. Sure you can create PDFs, but you can only store them in the editable form.

      That’s why for archival only, I use Gmail. I attach the finished PDF file and send it to the dedicated email account. Works great. For record keeping for my office, I don’t want to edit them, simply recall them when necessary. Thanks again for your comment! Great tip on using Google Docs, by the way!

  8. author MrSpeeb posted June 26th 2010. 10:36 am Reply

    Matt, I’m not sure what you mean by “editable form” of PDFs. PDF are by nature, non-editable, unless you have Acrobat or some other such tool. In which case, any PDF (GD or Gmail) is editable. In any case, a PDF can be secured with a password making it even more unlikely that it can be edited.

    I assume you mean that printing any other type of document (text, spreadsheet, etc.) withing GD, creates a PDF as output. I was referring to a external PDF like a contract or disclosure. Any PDF can be uploaded to GD.

    Your readers may find this backgrounder of interest:

  9. author Dan Therrell posted June 27th 2010. 1:57 pm Reply

    Matt…great post! This is a real simple solution that anyone can understand. I have used it myself for converting documents to PDF, emailing or faxing to clients, and storage.

    While I do not use the the same fax service, (I pay for a 1-800#) my service allows 500 pages/month, which is more than enough for me.

    I also recommend:

    1) Google Apps for hosting your domain email. (ex.
    The Standard version is free.

    2) Google Voice for managing incoming calls.
    Free phone number, voice mail, and forwarding service.

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