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How to scan documents with G Suite

Digital documents are often easier than paper to store, search, share, and send. Unfortunately, not all business documents are digital—yet.

If you use Google’s G Suite, paired with a networked scanner or a mobile device, you have at least three distinct ways to convert paper into a PDF you can share or send.

1. Smartphone scan

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First, to convert a few pages from paper to PDF, use your phone. Use the Google Drive Android app to take pictures of pages and save them as a PDF to Google Drive.

To do this, select the + action button in the Google Drive app, tap “Scan,” and then hold your phone’s camera with the entire document in view. Repeat the process to add additional pages. (For more details on the Google Drive app scanning, see Scan-to-Google Drive: The scanner in your pocket.)

With an iPhone or iPad, use Apple Notes: Make a new note, select the + with a circle around it, then choose “Scan Document,” and capture an image of a page. When you’re done, select “Share” (the box with an arrow pointing up), then choose Google Drive or Gmail to upload or send the document. (For more details on iOS scanning, see Three iOS 11 iPad features business users may be overlooking.)

2. Networked device: Scan to Google Drive

Second, to convert many pages, use a modern networked scanner that connects directly to Google Drive: Add your account credentials, then scan your pages directly to a file in a selected folder on Google Drive. Once you have your documents in Drive, you can share access to the file with colleagues. (For more details on this, see How to scan documents directly to Google Drive.)

3. Networked device: Scan, then send via email

Third, you may want to configure some devices to scan, then email documents. And this is where configuration can be a bit more complicated. Google gives you three different ways to configure scan-to-email settings for these devices.

Read through each option and refer to Google’s “Send email from a printer, scanner, or app” for additional configuration details.

Recommended: G Suite SMTP relay

The most secure option sends scans via a G Suite SMTP relay, which a G Suite administrator needs to enable for the organization.

To do this, turn on comprehensive mail storage to keep a copy of items sent. Go to https://admin.google.com, sign in with a G Suite administrator account, go to Apps > G Suite > Gmail > Advanced settings > scroll down to the Compliance section, and check the box next to “Comprehensive mail storage” to “Ensure that a copy of all sent and received mail is stored in associated users’ mailboxes.”

Then, also in Apps > G Suite > Gmail > Advanced settings > scroll down to the Routing section, and select the SMTP relay service, then choose “Configure.” You might choose to allow “only addresses in my domains,” then restrict mail by IP address. You may also “Add IP range” to specify the IP addresses of your devices and also “Require SMTP authentication.” I recommend you check the box to “Require TLS encryption” if your device supports this kind of connection. Then, select “Add setting.” See Google’s Send email from a printer, scanner, or app support page for additional configuration details.

Screenshot of G Suite configuration screen for the G Suite SMTP relay. Shows allowed sends, authentication, and encryption options.

A G Suite administrator can enable and configure a G Suite SMTP relay, with authentication linked either to an IP address or Google account.

Alternative: Send with a Google account via a Gmail SMTP server

A slightly less secure method sends scans via a Gmail SMTP server. As with the first method, the connection between your scanner and the server can be secured with encryption.

You’ll need a Google account to configure your device for this method: Consider whether you want to use one G Suite account for every device in your organization, or whether it makes sense to create a dedicated account for each device.

If you use the Gmail SMTP server method, I suggest you create a new organizational unit, say, called “Scanners.” Assign any accounts created for use by devices to this organizational unit. Then, in the Admin console, go to Security > Basic settings > Select the link next to “Less secure apps” > Choose the organizational unit you created (e.g., “Scanners”), then select “Allow users to manage their access to less secure apps”. This permits these accounts to use the Gmail SMTP method to send email, without changing the security settings for other accounts in your organization’s G Suite domain. In your browser, sign in at least once to the G Suite account created for a device to ensure the account passes any “Captcha” limitations.

Screenshot showing G Suite "allow less secure apps" setting, in the context of an organizational unit named "Scanners"

To send scans to email with the Gmail SMTP server, a G Suite administrator needs to set the Google accounts you’ll use for this to allow “less secure” apps.

Less capable devices: Send to Google accounts-only via a restricted Gmail SMTP server

The least secure option allows you to send scans only to Gmail or G Suite accounts. (This may be the only option available for some older devices.) While the connection between the scanner and server is not secured, an administrator will need to add the scanner’s IP address both as an authorized sender (in an SPF record at your domain name host) and as an always-allowed receiver (in G Suite Gmail settings) to ensure incoming messages arrive in an inbox, not spam.

Screenshot of G Suite Gmail settings to always allow mail from a specified IP address

For some less capable devices, you may only be able to configure the restricted Gmail SMTP server. A G Suite admin will need to add the IP address of the scanner to your organization’s SPF record (not shown), and also configure Gmail to always accept email from this IP address (as shown above).

Your thoughts?

Which scanning method do you most often use? A smartphone? A device that connects directly to Google Drive? Or one of the three scan-and-email options? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).

Also see

Illustration of document being scanned (left) with arrow to icon of PDF (center) with arrows to Google Drive icon (top right) and Gmail icon (bottom right)

Illustration: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic




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About Pralay Das

Pralay Das
Hi, My name is Pralay Das. I am an Ethical Hacker. I am doing Diploma an in Computer Science. My dream is to become penetration tester and then share my knowledge with everyone. I created a blog which I named as “TCR-Security” (The Cyber Researcher) in which will upload articles regarding Technology, Gadget Reviews, and Cyber Security.

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