Archives are kept by a wide variety of organizations, and can be either physical or digital. Universities, commercial businesses, the government, religious organizations, and non-profit organizations all often keep archives. Although archives are distinct from libraries, many libraries do contain archives as well. The types of documents contained in archives vary depending on the type of organization keeping them. Organizations and governments often keep archives pertaining to their histories; research institutions, such as universities, keep document archives for research (particularly historical), and businesses keep records of financial transactions. Those in the legal, medical, and financial sectors have a particular need to keep extensive records.
Physical archives often simply consist of paper documents. Of course, there are issues with paper, especially from a long-term storage perspective. Mold, mildew, moisture and improper handling can all ruin documents. There is no guarantee that paper documents will survive, even in the short term. Because of this, microforms were developed. Microforms contain microreproduction of documents, and are always made of a material more resilient than paper. Their small size makes them easier to store than paper documents, and are much less susceptible to damage. The two most common types of microforms are microfilm and microfiche, which are reels and thin sheets respectively. Microforms require bulky equipment to view.
Digital Document Archiving
With the prevalence of scanners, many organizations are turning to digital document archiving solutions. Scanners allow users to capture digital images of their documents, which can then be stored on servers or hard drives. The biggest advantage to digitally archiving documents is that only virtual space is required to house them. Physically archiving documents can take up a significant amount of space; there are even business devoted to storing documents for a fee. Digitally archiving documents can practically eliminate the need for keeping phyiscal records.
PDF/A: The Right Format for Document Archiving
When documents are scanned, they are saved in various image formats, such as TIFF, JPEG, or BMP. Some scanner software supports scanning directly to PDF, which is advantageous since PDF (portable document format) is intended for accurate and clear document representation. Using OCR (optical character recognition), PDF documents can be made text-searchable, which makes retrieving specific information from digital archives much simpler. PDF documents can also be compressed to a very small size, making storage and transmission much simpler.
The main problem with digital document archives is that software and format standards are constantly changing, and because of this, there is no guarantee that a file in a given format will be viewable in the future. In order to combat this problem, the PDF/A format was developed. PDF/A is a subset of the PDF format designed for archiving documents long-term. All information needed to open a PDF/A file is contained within the file itself; PDF/A files are truly platform independent. All that is needed, and will be needed, in the future to open a PDF/A file is a PDF/A reader. PDF/A software can convert existing documents to PDF/A and ensure that PDF/A documents remain compliant with the PDF/A standard.
CVISION Technologies recognizes the need for a reliable digital archival format, and has created DocArchiver, a complete PDF/A digital document archival solution.