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Archiving Records for Short and Long-Term Accessibility

Learn how you can store financial documents, spreadsheets, reports and back-up documentation using an easy-to-use industry standard archiving format.

October 29, 2007
Sponsored by Adobe Systems, Inc.

Records, and how they are managed, are an important issue to many financial professionals. In a corporation, they are your historic record. If you are audited, you need to produce them quickly and cleanly. Imagine having a financial audit and you have trouble producing documents from three, five or seven years ago. This could cost you and your staff time, but more importantly, it will cost your company money.

Proliferation of Document Storage Needs

Our business culture has created an environment where we are now keeping more and more of our documents and reports in some sort of electronic format. We might keep the document in an Excel file, an Access file or Crystal reports. It might even be in a Word file. To further complicate the issue, we also need to keep back-up documents, such as contracts and agreements. The point is, we need to maintain many documents and reports that are critical to our companies.

A danger that we all face in this digital document age is what happens if we lose these documents. We all know that we need to follow best practices for preserving this data. These best practices will reduce the likelihood of losing your company’s or your customer’s data. These best practices are simple and self-evident and there are hundreds of articles written on the topics. But, this is not an article about just saving data. This is an article examining how you save your reports and data. It is about electronic archiving.

Benefits of Electronic Archives

The advantages of establishing and continually building an electronic archive for your accounting department and your financial records are numerous. Electronic archives unlock information that was previously difficult to access in paper form, which enable more effective sharing of information and contribute to knowledge flows. No longer are archives the domain of those few who truly understand the filing system. With electronic archives, information can be made available to anyone in the organization by granting access privileges. Additionally, electronic archives can contribute to extensive cost savings within your department.

Assessing Record Requirements

The requirements for your archived records are determined by your organization’s internal business, financial and legal needs, as well as external regulations or requirements. Thus, the requirements for each organization will be different. A thorough risk analysis must be performed with the full participation of the organization’s legal department to determine the technological approach that is best for your organization.

The assessment team should include:

  • Auditors and lawyers — Knowledge of the organization’s business structure, procedures and laws and policies that apply to the organization’s records.
  • Records managers and archivists — Knowledge of who accesses the records, why the records are accessed and how long the records need to remain accessible.
  • Record creators and users — Knowledge of the records’ business purpose and operational value.

PDF As an Archiving Format

There are many electronic formats and technologies to choose from for archiving. These include ASCII (for text), TIFF, PDF and XML — not to mention word processing, spreadsheets and other formats. The proprietary nature of some of these formats leads to the criticism that they cannot be guaranteed to continue for the long term. Only one of these formats is uniquely suited to ensuring display preservation over a long-time period. In fact, PDF/A is an approved, recognized standard defined by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) to support long-term archiving of electronic documents.

PDF represents the data contained in the document and the exact form the document took. The file can be viewed without the originating application. In fact, 10 years from now and into the future, users will still be able to view the file exactly as it was created. With the addition of XML metadata to the PDF file, you can have both fidelity and accessibility. Because PDF is a publicly available specification, the information about the file format will always be in the public domain, making it a very attractive format to use for electronic archives. People with disabilities can also access the information using assistive technology.

To learn more about how PDF solutions can work in your organization, please visit http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/solutions/finance/.