PDF Takes Honors as Top Archive Format
January 20, 2009 Alex Woodie
The humble PDF is the most popular document file format for archived data, concluded AIIM, an industry group that follows electronic storage technologies. Nine out of 10 respondents to an AIIM survey found that the PDF is emerging as the primary long-term medium, beating out Microsoft Office formats and that old standby, paper.
A recent survey was undertaken by AIIM to find out what methods and technologies organizations are using for long-term storage of documents. AIIM has an extensive history in this market niche–it was founded in 1943 as the National Microfilm Association, and today is known as the Association for Information and Image Management.
Results of the survey point to PDF’s emerging dominance in the field. While 100 percent of organization today store documents in their paper-based form, only 77 percent said they will use paper for long-term storage in five years. By comparison, 93 percent of respondents said they will use PDFs for long-term storage.
What’s more, 89 percent of respondents said they are converting documents stored in Office formats to the PDF format for distribution and archive. This migration could have something to do with the mostly proprietary nature of Microsoft Office document storage formats. A heated battle has been waged against Microsoft by open standards advocates, such as the ODF Alliance, and they have succeeded in getting Microsoft to support more industry standards within Office. But PDF still reigns supreme.
Betsy Fanning, director of standards at AIIM, says one of the reasons for PDFs rapid climb to archive stardom is its embrace of open standards, as evidenced with PDF/A, a dedicated document format that is entirely self-contained, with no links to external fonts or hyperlinks.
“PDF/A became an ISO standard in 2005, and we have seen a further boost this past year with the release of PDF itself as an open ISO standard,” Fanning says. “PDF/A is a good option for archiving electronic documents and is far better than archiving native files from any specific application.rnAIIM’s survey found older storage mechanisms are still alive and kicking, while new video and audio formats are popping up. Microfilm and microfiche are still used by 43 percent of organizations. However, within five years, only 28 percent of organizations will be using microfilm or microfiche, the survey found. At the other end of the media spectrum, AIIM found increase use of digital video and digital audio formats.