Question: Is it possible to compress TIFF files?
Answer: It is certainly possible to compress TIFF files. The question is – into what format? TIFFs for black and white are normally stored in G4 format. TIFF files for bitonal scans that are not already in G4 format can certainly benefit from conversion to G4 format. Some TIFFs are originally saved using TIFF raw, run-length encoding, or G3 format. These variations of TIFF are usually not optimal for bitonal files and would benefit from conversion to TIFF G4.
Assuming a bitonal scan is already in TIFF G4 format, there is considerable advantage with respect to further reducing file size by converting to JBIG2-encoded PDF. There is often an additional file size reduction using JBIG2-based PDF that shrinks the file size up to 10x smaller than TIFF G4. Of course, this requires conversion of the database from TIFF to PDF format. In general, there are many advantages to using PDF format as opposed to TIFF. These PDF advantages include features of security, web-optimization, meta-data, and hidden text OCR. The new PDF/A variation on PDF makes it highly desirable for long-term document archiving.
There are variations on TIFF that are challenging to read (or parse). There are also variations on spelling TIFF (aka TIF). Particularly challenging is correctly reading OJPEG TIFFs. There are NO viewers we have found that are capable of reading all variations of TIFF. Thus, reading and/or displaying a TIFF file is never a sure thing. This makes PDF a more reliable, safer, long term bet than TIFF for document databases.