Computers are powerful tools for analysing, storing and sending data, but data often comes in the form of paper documents. Data entry is the process of digitising data by entering it into a computer system; manual data entry describes physically typing information into a computer. Manual data entry has several advantages and disadvantages when compared to automated data entry.
Cost is one of the primary drawbacks of manual data entry. Manual data entry is a labour-intensive process. An efficient worker might achieve a typing speed of 100 words per minute, but even at that rate it can take several minutes to type a single page of information into a computer. The cost of hiring data entry workers is likely to exceed the cost of purchasing basic equipment and software to automatically enter data into a computer, especially if large amounts of information must be entered. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, typists earned £20,403 a year on average in May 2008 and data entry keyers earned £16,978. For small data entry tasks, manual entry may be cheaper than the cost of buying the appropriate equipment for automated data collection.
The accuracy of data entered into a computer is of utmost importance in data entry. Manual data entry has the potential to be more accurate than automated data entry. A human worker can recognise and correct errors as they occur and so an attentive data entry worker may make fewer errors than an automated system. Manual data entry does, however, introduce the possibly of human error; workers that do not have close attention to detail or that are suffering from a lack of concentration or fatigue may make more errors.
Data Entry Speed
Manual data entry tends to be slower than automated data entry. It might take a skilled data entry worker four minutes to enter a page of data with 400 words on it into a computer. Scanners can take the information on a page and create a digital copy within seconds. For large data entry projects or time sensitive projects, the speed of automated data entry may be a significant advantage.
Manual data entry requires no formal education but hiring employees can be expensive even if wages are low, since employers often provide costly benefits. Businesses can outsource data entry tasks to contract labourers or workers in other countries to reduce data entry costs.