How to Efficiently Archive Your Files for the Long-Run with PDF/A

Electronic Documents Provide for Long-Term Preservation

In document-intensive companies and government agencies, traditional archiving methods for documents include paper, microfilm and microfiche. Today, businesses and governments are migrating from paper documents to digital for long-term preservation. For example, in healthcare, the US government has been publicly vocal about the need to adopt digital documentation in EHR systems. One of the advantages of digital technology is that files can be copied, downloaded, and sent over, at almost no cost. The other main benefit is that we can quickly and easily search digital documents, whether by file name or content within. It’s now time for every organization dealing with heavy paperwork to convert paper-based archiving to digital saving.

So, what’s the best approach for making the switch from paper to digital archiving? This article will discuss how to make sure the files can stand up to long-term use and preservation.

Long-Term Reproducibility

In 2005, the International Standards Organization (ISO) formulated a new standard governing archiving of electronic documents. It was the PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1) format. The format offers a mechanism for electronic documents so that the visual appearance remains preserved for an extended period. This preservation mechanism is independent of whatever tools and systems are to be used for producing, saving and reproducing files.

First, a Bit about TIFF

The TIFF (tagged image file format) format has long been a popular choice for archiving electronic documents. Uncompressed TIFF files are self-contained, which means all the data is placed inside the file. So, it does not require any external files to display it. The data encapsulated includes the text, fonts, graphics, and other information. However, the file format has several problems when it comes to long-term archiving.

TIFF was originally designed as a standard format for scanned documents. TIFF is a lossless format (consider that lossy means “with losses to quality”). So, TIFF image files are often quite large in size. In fact, a TIFF image file can often be 10 times or larger in megabyte size than an equivalent JPEG file format of the same file.

TIFF is a pure image format. Elements like searchable text, hyperlinks and other elements cannot be embedded within the file. This makes the TIFF format almost impossible to use for searching for specific information in archived documents.


PDF/A is based on existing versions of PDF (portable document format). The PDF/A-1 standard is based on PDF 1.4, and PDF/A-2 is based on PDF 1.7. But, the PDF format does not guarantee two requirements ideal for digital archiving: long-term reproducibility and complete independence from software and the output device.

To guarantee both principles, it was necessary to both limit and expand the existing PDF Standard. Essentially, the PDF/A-1 and PDF/A-2 standards specifically identify individual characteristics of PDF Reference 1.4 and 1.7. They indicate whether each is absolutely necessary, recommended, limited, or not permitted.

Convert from TIFF and PDF to PDF/A

For example, the PDF/A-1a standard requires that document text be extractable. To convert image-based PDF files and TIFF files to searchable content, you need OCR (optical character recognition) software. OCR is the technology which converts images of handwritten or printed text into searchable text that can also be edited or used in other digital manners.

As organizations continue to move away from paper-based document management, they require new approaches to help them digitally archive documents. Dynamsoft has a variety of solutions to help.

Powered by the accurate and reliable OmniPage OCR SDK, our Dynamsoft Document Capture OCR-as-a-service can be used to automate information capture from scanned documents or existing PDFs. You can use the service to extract text for purposes of document management, records archive, and much more. And, it’s all in the cloud so you can use it anywhere you’re online and from practically any device.

The service is now available. Sign up now and give it a try. You will be granted 25 free credits.

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