August 2023 Newsletter – PDF/A: The Standard For Long-Term Archiving

Aug 3, 2023 | Blog, Newsletters

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PDF/A – the standard for long-term archiving. The advantages of converting your records to the PDF/A format

On September 28, 2005 the International Standards Organization (ISO) formulated a new Standard governing archiving of electronic documents. The official formulation is: ISO-19005-1 – Document management – Electronic document file format for long-term preservation – Part 1: Use of PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1). The Standard was the result of more than 36 months of collaboration among companies and organizations around the world.

What are the advantages of the PDF/A Standard?

Almost every country uses its own format to archive documents. Traditional archiving methods such as paper, microfilm, and microfiche can be archived for a long time and can be reproduced over long-term. These formats, however, lack the advantages of digital technology. Large documents cannot be quickly and easily sent around the world. Additionally, it is almost impossible to search documents archived in the traditional way for specific information. Many institutions chose the TIFF format for their first electronic archives. This format guarantees long-term reproducibility, and the image format TIFF is established and can easily and quickly be sent to networked institutions around the world. Freely searching for information in the TIFF format, however, remains problematic.

PDF includes structured objects (text, vector graphics, rastered images, etc.). This allows efficient search queries to be performed through the entire data archive. TIFF is also a rastered format. In order to be able to perform a full text search, the TIFF document must first be prepared by optical text recognition software (OCR). PDF can be efficiently and compactly compressed. In comparison to an equivalent TIFF file, a PDF file requires only a fraction of the memory space. Moreover, the quality is almost always better. The smaller file size is extremely advantageous for electronic file transfer in particular, such as email attachments, FTP, etc. Metadata (author, topic, content, keywords, date created, date modified, publisher, etc.) are embedded directly in the PDF file using a standardized format (XMP). This means that the metadata can be automatically and systematically amended without manual steps. The PDF format is generally conceived such that it is not tied to any one particular device (raster resolution, color system, etc.). Only once the document is displayed is the page content represented in the viewer or on the printer; this process is called “rendering.” This means that PDF documents adapt to the technological development of the output devices (printer, monitor, scanner, etc.) and remain up-to-date for years after their creation.

PDF/A – the archiving standard

PDF/A is the standard for archiving electronic documents. The PDF format is widespread globally. It is used in both the public and private sectors for a wide range of purposes. The PDF/A Standard is the perfect instrument to ensure long-term preservation and reproducibility of documents over extended periods. The PDF/A Standard also influences the future development of the PDF format itself. Independent of it, Adobe will continue to develop new functionalities. For example, 3-dimensional models or XFA for dynamic PDF forms. Conversely, these developments will influence the PDF/A Standard.

Financial Services Company credit and insurance records must often be kept for fifty years or more. Electronic archiving based on PDF/A has become increasingly popular not only for new files, but also as a migration target for existing archives. PDF/A delivers a single, consistent standard for archiving.

Public Administration Government agencies were among the first organizations calling for a non-proprietary format for electronic document archiving. Typical government applications for PDF/A include legal filings, court documents, forms, zoning files and official notices.

Healthcare Medical records come from a variety of sources and often include detailed information for which searchability is vital. PDF/A provides a standardized means of handling diverse records and metadata while providing a high degree of functionality as part of the file-format.

Engineering Long-term archiving is of great importance to engineering organizations, especially aerospace and civil engineering concerns. For example, the design specifications of bridges, aircraft or machinery are often required by law to be stored for 50 or sometimes over 100 years! Some regulations specify that all document versions must be archived; PDF/A readily accommodates this requirement.

Graphic Imaging Services, Inc.  can convert your records to the PDF/A format with our Outsource Scanning Service. Please contact us for quotations.