images of the seven million savings bonds that Americans buy every month. The $900,000 system was built by LaserAccess and Network Imaging Corp.

At the state and local level, COLD systems are harder to find, but they do exist. Unisys sold a number of systems to local governments, including the cities of Jacksonville, Fla., and Durham, N.C. The product, called Coinserv, was developed by INSCI and is sold, installed and supported by Unisys. In both cases, the cities began with a small installation in one or two departments, such as payroll or utilities, and are now letting the system grow, according to Richard Loibl, COLD project manager for Unisys. Another Unisys customer is the Phoenix Police Department, which uses COLD to store its incident reports.

One problem that has hampered government acceptance of COLD is, oddly enough, cost-justification. "Local governments don't always have the data available to analyze their return on investment for COLD," said Loibl. They have to find out what they are spending on both paper and microfiche. Measuring the gains in productivity when a worker switches from paper to COLD is also hard to nail down, according to Loibl.

Once the decision is made to purchase a COLD system, customers have to be careful about matching the right system with their particular requirements. A mistake that customers often make is underestimating the size of their system. They tend to focus on how fast the COLD system can record computer documents to optical storage and pay little attention to the system's retrieval performance.

A true multi-tasking system, such as mainframes and UNIX, can retrieve significant amounts of documents without a sweat, but Windows-based systems, which are not multi-tasking, can suffer serious performance degradation. "Users get into trouble when they buy systems based on price," said Grigsby. "They don't understand the dynamics of retrieval."

One new trend is the merging of COLD with document imaging systems. "The major vendors are integrating COLD and imaging into a single system," Grigsby explained. The reason is simple. Workers want to view computer documents right along with scanned documents. COLD and imaging together simplify the tasks of workers while improving their productivity. For governments, that may be all the justification they need to warm up their interest in COLD.

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Imaging creates electronic images of documents from paper. Scan a piece of paper and you convert it into an image, which can be indexed and stored by your computer on a magnetic or optical disc.

COLD creates an electronic document from data that's already inside your computer. For example, when your computer formats data to create an invoice or purchase order, COLD captures an image of the formatted data -- just as it would appear when you print it out -- and then indexes and stores the image.

For both imaging and COLD applications, the user ends up retrieving and viewing images of information. The only difference is their origin: one comes from a piece of paper, the other comes from data that has been formatted into an electronic document by your computer.

So what's the benefit of COLD? Well, it allows you to view information exactly as others see it. All those invoices, purchase orders and bank statements we receive exist only as rows of alphanumeric data in the computer. COLD allows a customer representative to view information -- your utility bill or monthly bank statement -- exactly as you see it on paper at home. COLD also is a convenient way to store and retrieve data that is typically printed out on paper, such as those so-called "green bar" reports departments and agencies pore over.

In the vendor community, imaging and COLD are both treated as subsets of document management, the umbrella term for everything that has to do with electronic documents -- scanned images, COLD images, word processing documents, spreadsheet documents and so on -- and the software for managing and processing these documents: workflow, optical character recognition, forms processing, text retrieval and more. -- TN

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