Chase Manhattan Bank's launch of i-Vault!, an Internet-based image archive service, is another step toward achieving a paperless office, one of the dreams of the electronic age.
By replacing rooms full of filing cabinets with a secure electronic storage and retrieval system, i-Vault! offers businesses a paperless and highly efficient "office of the future."
"It is easy to use and it's instant," said John Bonin, a business executive at Chase's I-Solutions division. "It eliminates a lot of paper."
Chase had developed the image archive service for its own use several years ago, using it to store bank documents such as statements and checks. Soon, however, the bank realized that this service could be marketed to clients outside the bank, and in 1999, it began offering it to its business banking customers, who could access their statements, cancelled checks, and other bank documents. Now, the bank has expanded the archive so that it is available for businesses to store a variety of documents-everything from contracts and customer service files to medical and human resources records.
Six different physical archives lie behind i-Vault!, with several locations in the United States, one in England, and one in Hong Kong. Customers, however, don't have to worry about where i-Vault! stores their data, and in fact all of the data is stored in two locations as part of a disaster recovery system.
i-Vault! stores a company's documents in separate folders, available in an easy-to-navigate Web-based environment. Clients can determine who in their company can see which set of documents, since each has its own password.
Thus, for instance, a company's human resources department might have access only to employment history documents, while the accounting department might have access only to financial documents.
Fifty Chase clients are using the service, with thirty-four scheduled to come on board in the near future.
Businesses find i-Vault! valuable because it offers unlimited, secure storage capabilities without the requirement of investing in and maintaining expensive onsite equipment, and because it allows employees to sort through, search, and cross-reference large numbers of documents at record speed.
"Customers are used to a situation where they make a request for a document from an archive, and then they have to wait for a day or more to receive it," said Bill Telkowski, technology and development manager at Chase I-Solutions. "Now it's instantaneous."