Safe and secure long-term archiving of e-mails as PDF/A

Safe and secure long-term archiving of e-mails as PDF/A

Forty-five years ago when the first e-mail was sent, few could have predicted how overwhelmingly essential this electronic exchange of information would become. Now, whether for practical or legal requirements, millions, if not billions, of emails must be stored in long-term archives each year.

Simply archiving in the native format doesn’t work. That’s because there’s no guarantee that a format used today—.eml or Microsoft Outlook’s .msg files, will be accessible 10 years from now. And think about attachments with all those different extensions like .xls or .doc which on top come in versions like Word97 vs Word 2016.

Converting to PDF/A, the format of the ISO standard for long-term archiving, offers you a much safer option for archiving.

PDF/A is a platform-independent format that ensures readability down the road.

PDF/A-3 offers very good options for converting e-mails to PDF/A for archiving. PDF/A-3 enables you to keep both the e-mails and attachments in PDF/A format as well as in their native format, all contained in one nice, neat file.

This means that a PDF/A-3 file is really a container that consists of an archive component and a non-archive component. The archive component is meant to be kept permanently and thus must correspond to known PDF/A conventions because it’s got a long lifecycle.

Meanwhile, the non-archive component, the embedded file in its native format, may only be relevant for a certain time—typically, the time during which it’s going to be edited. If these two components are processed together, the embedded file may become meaningless. PDF/A-3 creates a complete archive object of the e-mail that contains everything.

Policies can be as important as processes to avoid format overload

In addition to selecting the right software and process for conversion of emails for archiving, businesses should create policies and practices that protect them from becoming inundated with formats, such as scanned documents, MS Office documents, ZIP and RAR files. By simply communicating with your business partners the formats that you accept, along with methods and best practices (such as not password-protecting PDF files) for document delivery, you can eliminate major obstacles to the conversion process.

Choosing software and processes for long-term archiving.

In choosing software and the process for long-term archiving, businesses must balance the needs of automation, user involvement and approach to quality assurance (QA).

Good conversion software can process a variety of incoming formats and still produce an optimal result. Files that cannot be easily migrated to PDF/A, such as PDFs with password protection or video or audio files, must be handled in ways that permit processing.

Finally, conversion to PDF/A should require as little user interaction as possible in order to be able to convert high volumes automatically and independently of existing e-mail programs such as Outlook, which can only be opened once and therefore can’t handle parallel processing.

PDF Compressor does all of the above and more

LuraTech PDF Compressor offers an automatic and scalable solution for server-based document conversion and compression that integrates smoothly with many systems. It evaluates incoming emails and attachments and adapts to each one individually. For instance, scanned documents are treated differently than born-digital files.

Another option is for users to choose which emails are to be archived and then to initiate the process. This requires more human involvement in the initial stages and also in the QA phase where errors are corrected manually.

The ISO-compliant PDF/A format ensures that long-term archives will be accessible, regardless of the viewing platform, for years to come.

Archiving e-mails with PDF/A requires more than just conversion from the software used. The software you use must act as scalable “management software”, offering high operational stability, map conversion strategies and “repair rules” while it also intercepts errors or unregulated exceptions.

PDF Compressor can do all this for you. If you’d like to try it, ask for a free trial today.

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