The Power of Alfresco PDF/A

The Power of Alfresco PDF/A

Archiving to the Standard of ISO

Are you old enough to remember Corel WordPerfect documents?

The de facto word processing application in the 1980s, WordPerfect looked like it would dominate forever. Then Microsoft released Word and Corel’s software fell out of favor within less than 10 years.

What if your company used WordPerfect back in the day and needed to access data from a WPD? What do we do about obsolete file extensions when it comes to business-critical information?

That’s where PDF/A comes in.

What is a PDF/A?

 PDF/A is the archival form of the portable document file pioneered by Adobe.

It takes the universal document format of a PDF and embeds it with metadata according to an ISO standard so that documents can be read, processed, and trusted as unaltered for years into the future. PDF/A is the universal archive format for any kind of file.

Even as technology changes over the years, PDF/A documents are guaranteed to remain available for data retrieval down the road.

This makes PDF/A an important format for businesses. Just as companies operated by using WordPerfect until the mid-90s, businesses are using software today that will become obsolete. It is the nature of technology.

PDF/A gives us the ability to convert data created and saved in contemporary software into a format that cannot become obsolete.

Difference Between PDF and PDF/A

PDF is a common, universal file format pioneered by Adobe.

PDF/A is a subset of PDF documents meant for archiving information for a long period of time.PDF/A has stricter standards than the common PDF format. In fact, the standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) which is a decision-making body for global standards across platforms.

Most of the differences between PDF and PDF/A are due the longevity factor.

When a PDF/A is created, the process includes embedding fonts, graphics, and metadata from your document conversion program. This ensures that the document retains all the correct information and looks exactly like the original even decades from the date that you archive it.

Anything that may not stand the test of time is not allowed in a PDF/A. Things like audio, video, and executable files require other software to work so they are unable to be embedded into PDF/A.

References to external or web-based sources are also not allowed.

By excluding these aspects, there is no need to worry about changing technology or applications that fall out of use as time goes by. The PDF/A format will remain readable by a multitude of proprietary and generic Mac- and PC-based applications into the foreseeable future.

What Does It Mean to be PDF/A Compliant?

There are four levels of recognized compliance when it comes to PDF/A document conversion.

PDF/A-1 was published in 2005 and has two levels of conformance – 1B means Level B (basic) conformance. 1A means Level A (accessible) conformance. 1A includes all of the basic conformance standards plus language specification, hierarchical document structure, tagged text spans and descriptive text for images and symbols, and character mappings to Unicode. Between these two levels, most enterprise-level business-critical information is covered.

PDF/A-2 has advanced capabilities that may be necessary for niche markets. This compliance level supports JPEG 2000 image compression, support for transparent layers, OpenType fonts, tools for digital signatures, and provisions for embedding document sets.

PDF/A-3 differs from Part-2 in that it allows embedding of arbitrary file formats into PDF/A Conforming documents that have already been created. PDF/A-4 has not been released yet.

Business Continuity at your Fingertips

There is proprietary software for creating Alfresco PDF/A documents from PDF and other document formats.

There are also Alfresco PDF/A conversion tools built into Document Management Systems (DMS) to make it easier for companies to prepare their data for archiving.

Having this feature built into your company’s Alfresco DMS means you can preserve the original appearance of business-critical documents, retain their searchability in your system, and yet maintain their device independence at the same time.

Decades from now these Alfresco PDF/A files will still be accessible, even if your hardware, software, and computer systems have changed. This is an important part of business continuity.

Not only do Alfresco PDF/A conversions keep your data safe, but storage on a web-based DMS keeps the information secure even during extenuating circumstances such as a disaster.

Are you ready to put Alfresco PDF/A conversions to work to protect your company’s data?

To find out more about a built-in Alfresco PDF/A Converter for your company, contact us.

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