What is PDF/A validation and why does your archive need it?

What is PDF/A validation and why does your archive need it?

If you’re creating documents containing business information that has long-term relevance and/or you’re creating an archive that users may access way down the line, you want to ensure those PDF files will be usable. Since PDF is regulated by an ISO standard, it’s meant to be future-compatible, but you have to follow some principles of interoperability to ensure that’s true.

In order for your PDF files to be accessible in the long run, you need to validate their correctness and long-term legibility. Fortunately, there’s an easy answer because this is precisely what PDF/A validation does for you.

What is PDF/A?
The PDF/A ISO standard is a set of guidelines that dictates certain restrictions on how what a PDF file can contain and the processes you use to create it. That’s why it rules out some features that aren’t compatible with long-term readability and view-ability. That means features such as encryption, non-embedded fonts, external references to multimedia content, and 3D content, among others.

When you validate a PDF/A file or process, you check documents for compliance with the ISO standards for PDF and PDF/A documents. Once your files are validated, you can be confident that they’re suitable to go in your archive and will be accessible in the long term.

PDF/A validation best practices
Here are the top ways to ensure your PDF files are validated appropriately:

1. Use Foxit PhantomPDF to validate single PDF files. PhantomPDF has PDF/A, PDF/E and PDF/X compliance validation built right in and lets you detect and fix problems.

2. Use Foxit PDF Compressor to set up a process for validating large numbers of scans. If you’re working scans at an enterprise-level scale, you can create a process validation in order to handle checking for PDF/A compliance automatically. Once you set it up (and ensure it’s working with a few tests of random samples), you can set it and forget it.

3. Set up a single entity responsible for validating incoming files. This is how they do it in Germany, the birthplace of PDF Compressor, where there are 400 savings banks and one service provider runs the central archive. Because the service provider is the single point of responsibility, they validate each and every incoming PDF file for PDF/A as they receive it. (If you want resources to create this kind of validation solution, contact us for a recommendation on good partners to help you do it.)

Keep in mind, the whole point of having an archive is enabling your PDF files to be accessible for the foreseeable—and not so foreseeable—future. If you’re archiving without validation, you may be inadvertently saving bad PDFs that are unreadable, unsearchable and generally unusable. It’s just one more reason to use PDF/A to ensure the highest technical quality of your business documents.

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