Migrating your archive? Now’s the time to convert to PDF/A

by Thomas Zellmann, Sales Manager

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It’s no secret that archive migration is a potentially complex and expensive undertaking. You’ve got a lot to consider, beyond merely copying over your documents. Whatever your reason for migrating your archive, now’s the time to convert your documents to PDF/A.

Benefits of PDF/A

Migrating to PDF/A—the universal archival solution for all commercial e-file storage needs—eliminates the chaotic “format zoo,” creating a streamlined and uniform archive.

PDF/A offers you a versatile solution for storing, documenting, and accurately reproducing pdfs, regardless of the content system management used.

It ensures your documents will be readable far into the future.

PDF/A also supports embedding text objects (OCR) for full-text searching, so it also ensures people can find what they’re looking for, even over the long run.

Plus, from a compliance and records management point of view, PDF/A is the premier choice because it provides a stable foundation for your new archive or ECM system.

Tips for planning your migration project
It’s best to evaluate the state of your current archived documents during the concept phase of your archive migration. That’s the time to have project managers analyze whether your existing documents are convertible to PDF/A.

You may have some document types that can’t be converted, such as digitally signed TIFF files which are precluded due to legal reasons. If you’re unsure, you can bring a consultant in who has relevant experience analyzing documents so you can plan exactly which documents gets converted to PDF/A and which don’t.

When planning your conversion project, be sure to record the file types available in your archive. Many old archives include AFP files from output, and TIFF and JPEG from scanning.

You’re likely to find a considerable number of text files, such as log data, that have been archived. You’ll probably also find many documents in the Office format and e-mails in your archive as well.

Converting to PDF/A-3 is particularly suitable for these formats, since it allows you to embed files of any format (including XML, CSV, CAD, images, binary executables, etc.), within a PDF/A file. This increases the functionality of PDF/A, evolving it from “electronic paper” into an archival format that offers a page-oriented document that’s bundled with related files—essentially, creating a portfolio of any document that needs to retain originally formatted files to be complete.

The “proof of concept” and test phase of document migration
Before you migrate your archive, you’ll need to select the right conversion solution. Typically, you test both the procedure and the conformity to the PDF/A format and verify them in a proof-of-concept.

If your archive is like most, you’ll find numerous technically faulty documents hidden in your existing archives. Once you’ve identified these invalid documents, your best option is to purge them as part of your migration, even if that means paying to manually correct them, so that they don’t take up space or cause search errors in your new archive. PDF/A-3 can also? help here if, for example, the original documents are or have to be embedded during revision. This effort will increase the document quality of your new archive!

Archive migration in phases, or on demand

Depending on the archive size, your migration and conversion may require powerful hardware and take weeks, or even months. So you may want to consider approaches other than complete migration all at once.

Other choices include migration in phases, according to specific milestones or deadlines, and even “on demand,” as users need them.

All of these alternative migration strategies enable you to plan for less downtime and more efficient use of resources, ensuring documents in your archive offer maximum uptime for those who need access.

There’s no question that converting an old archive which includes TIFF, AFP and other file formats to PDF/A can be a big job. In fact, it often requires expertise and strategic implementation. Regardless, if you’re going to be undertaking such a conversion, PDF/A is recommended as your main resulting format because it creates added value through ISO standardization, compression, full-text search and the ability to embed original documents.


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