Archiving Electronic Documents
The use of electronic documents has gained prominence in business and office settings due to technological development, increased information consumption, and environmental conscientiousness. Information that is formatted electronically is more efficient and accessible, overcoming the shortcomings associated with paper documents. However as technology continues to advance, the means for creating and accessing electronic documents changes as well, which raises the question of how to archive and retrieve information in a consistent manner.
Electronic information is only as accessible as the technology that is available. If the format or software is incompatible then there is no easy way to retrieve the information. With rapid and constant changes in the technological field the notion of one day being unable to access historical electronic information is very real. PDF/A is a file format designed for the archiving and preservation of electronic documents in an independent and consistent manner. PDF/A is based on PDF, one of the most ubiquitous and widely used file formats. PDF/A is a device independent and self-contained solution, meaning that data can be retrieved regardless of what device is used, and does not depend on external features to be extracted.
According to a study by Coopers & Lybrand, 90% of critical business information exists on paper. If these papers were damaged or misplaced it would be extremely costly to the business. As time goes on, the chances of misappropriation of documents increase as well. PDF/A was designed with long-term accessibility in mind. Being able to preserve and retrieve electronic information in the future is of vital importance. Several prestigious organizations in both academic and professional industries are involved with the development of PDF/A, including: AIIM, Adobe, Harvard University, the IRS, and NARA.