Automated vs. Manual Data Entry

All you need to know when choosing the perfect data entry solution.

In this age, where information is power, it is necessary to have all the information one can. Businesses today store tons of information or data, be it shipping receipts, tax invoices, personnel information, or inventories. Some of these data may be linked to statistics of some sort. So, it is necessary to obtain these data without any error. Failure to do so may result in incorrect analyses, and may have further implications. 

There are two separate ways as to which this information may be entered to the respective databases; automated data entry and manual data entry. However, there is still a divide as to which method must be employed by businesses, so that they can make the most of it.

Manual Data Entry

Consider the former mode of data entry, the manual method. Like the name would imply, it is the process of collecting and consolidating data from various sources, often on a physical media such as paper or having it entered in a computer file by individuals. Like any system, this method too has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Manual data entry provides a lot of job opportunities, which also seems to be what people are in dire need of nowadays. This is also important because employment contributes to economic growth. Another plus point of the manual system put forward by people endorsing manual data entry is that this system can prove to be much more efficient in entering data from documents which may be too illegible for computers to recognize. For example, certain handwritten documents, ancient manuscripts, doctors’ prescriptions and even medical records can only be ciphered by human eyes. 

This system does not require the employment of highly skilled people, and can be even done by people with no formal education. For this very reason, manual data entry is suited for and preferred by businesses which are looking to keep their initial capital costs low. This method also bodes well for institutions that do not require a large volume of data to be processed or high speed data entry operations.  Data entered by this method is also prone to the perils of technological sabotage. They are protected from the risk of cyber thefts, which is now very common in the internet era. 

However, as the saying goes “For every peak, there will be a valley”, there are downsides to this method too. This system is heavily reliant on experienced, dependable and proficient people with mastery in their trade. However, regardless of all the professionalism, humans are still humans only. They are bound to make mistakes. These mistakes may arise from lethargy, misunderstanding, or miscommunication. These mistakes occur more often than one would think, and these data entry slip-ups sometimes culminated in costing companies vast sums of money. 

Also, finding a certain dataset at a given instant can prove to be difficult when data is stored on physical medium like ledgers or books. Sorting data as per the user requirement would also be impossible. Manual data entry is also not preferred for an obvious reason; it is slow. Not only can it be inaccurate, it is a tedious and time consuming task. As the volume of data to be entered increases, so will the probability of an error being entered into the database. 

Automatic Data Entry

Traversing to the other side of this divide, we have automatic data entry. It basically does the exact same thing the manual method would do; that is collect data. The difference lies as to how this data collection is done. In the automated method, it is done via electronic aids such as scanners and computers having software such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Places looking to employ this method can have data entry providers deliver the tools required to do so to their worksites, or process the images remotely via providers offering online or cloud processing. Not unlike the manual data entry operation, this method too has its pros and cons. 

Looking at the perks, this method of operation is famed for its speed of storing data rapidly. Although some data entry operators reach speeds of up to 15000 kph (keystrokes per hour), it is nowhere near the lightning speeds with which computers do the job. An added advantage is that the processed files can be stored immediately on the user system. If the particular service provider also has provision for storing the files on cloud storage, it will also help retrieval of the files in case of any loss of data due to unforeseen circumstances. 

Furthermore, since computers are prone to bribery and illegal workplace practices, it is suited for corporations and even government institutions handling sensitive data which cannot be entrusted to humans. It is also worth mentioning that, even though initial capital is high for these services, in the long run, they are a cost effective method. 

As far as automated data entry is concerned, it has its shortcomings and is not an infallible method. While machines are attributed to having high productivity rates and higher accuracy end products, it is not as flexible as one would hope it to be. Machines used here are often designed for specific tasks. They are provided with an input, here the data to be entered, and based on instructions and data stored in the system, compares the obtained data with it, and if matching provides a suitable output. If the input were to deviate slightly from its intended form, a machine simply would generate an error, or blurt out a less than ideal output. 

Automated data entry also has a limitation, which is not within the system itself; the system is frowned upon because it replaces jobs. The fear that machines will displace people causes it to be not accepted by people from certain walks of life. The perturbation that machines are endangering to humans and their existence will always cast a shadow of doubt in people’s minds.  

So far it is clear that both the systems have their own virtues and vices. However, from what can be gathered, automated data entry does have a slight edge, as some of its disadvantages are more of an inconvenience rather than an actual infallibility. It can be inferred that both the respective systems find application in places of businesses with varying degrees of data work and market penetration. In the end, the choice of selecting often falls victim to the person running the place as well economical and ergonomic constraints.