PDF BRIEFING: Document archiving. By Simon Hurst

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The paperless office may still be some way away for some of us, but many organisations are now relying on electronic documents. This is an accelerating trend that will place much more importance on the properties and capabilities of the different electronic document formats.

The traditional paperless office concept brings to mind scanning paper documents, but we are already starting to see documents being created and exchanged electronically; if required, the paper copy will be of secondary importance. Online filing of tax and company information is a topical example. Technologies such as XML (eXtensible Markup Language) allow data to be created, transmitted, received and processed electronically, eliminating the need for documents to be archived as discrete items.

At some point, however, th...

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20th Jul 2006 11:43

Three things to be aware of
Whilst PDF has become a fantastic way of ending around documents in their original format and a great way of getting, for example, draft accounts to clients, I think there are three important thing to be aware of:

1) PDF's can be edited. Progammes that you can buy over the Internet (I won't say which here) allow you to turn a PDF document into a Word or Excel document, and re-save it as a PDF. Moreover the revised PDF gives no clues it has been revised, because the original has been overwritten. It isn't saved as 'version 2' with 'version 1' still there intact.

2) Like other files, PDF's can be browsed to in Explorer and there is no specific security over who can access here, change document properties or even delete the file.

3)There is no overall software 'in control' to keep an audit trail of who accessed which document, when.

Such shortcomings would mean that anyone trying to rely on PDF alone as a means of Document Management to the point where the original paper was being destroyed (or not even produced) would not, in my view and that of many others more eminent than myself, be on safe ground.

The ICAEW has an accreditation scheme for Document Management software. It is worth seeing some of these to see what sort of questions are asked and then consider how well PDF or whatever else you might be considering stacks up against them.

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21st Jul 2006 14:26

pdfcreator & EDMS
PDF is not a document management system - what you need to give evidential weight to an electronic document is to have procedures and processes in place that ensure that documents are traceable from receipt to document management system, and quality assurance that the people indexing and scanning the documents haven't slipped up and missed some writing on the back of the sheet, or have left a "post it" on top of a key piece of information in the document, or even worse failed to count the pages in = pages scanned.

Any document management system also needs access control, life-cycle control, seamless support for different sotage medi (such as DVD and CD jukebox, and a clearly defined recovery strategy.

Control over what goes in (garbage in garbage out) is also an important factor - no ZIP files, no unindexed bitmaps, no .exe files.

For PDFs I use a product called pdfcreator - I haven't come across a document that it doesn't do the job for - and it is free.


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