Why you should update your file format from time to time

Why you should update your file format from time to time

In an earlier post we explained the importance of digital preservation and why every company should have a digital preservation strategy. As a company you want to have a guaranteed access to your business documents, regardless of the type, format or age of the file. In an era where digital technology and software packages are evolving faster than businesses can naturally adapt, this challenge keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Backwards compatibility? You wish…

Most software vendors upgrade their products on a regular basis. while they commercially claim to support backwards compatibility for their products, in most cases this is only half the truth. The majority of applications can read files created with the previous software version and perhaps the one before that, but the ability to read older versions is often dropped. Older files that have not been converted, may not be readable by the latest version of the software. At the same time the older version of the software may no longer be available, or may not run on a current computer, or under a current version of the operating system. That is exactly the reason why it is important to update the file format of your company documents from time to time.

The fall of a legend: a tragic example

It is hard to predict which file formats are here to stay and which ones are destined to be forgotten. It all depends of several issues which are uncontrollable. A file format like PDF seems irreplaceable today and it will most probably not disappear in five to ten years. But the example of the WordPerfect software, by far the leading player in word processing software in the eighties and early nineties, has taught us that it can change very quickly. WordPerfect was best known in its DOS and Microsoft Windows versions, but its early popularity was partially based on its availability for a wide range of computers and operating systems. Its dominant position ended after a flawed release for Microsoft Windows, followed by a very long delay before introducing an enhanced version. By that time Microsoft Word was already released and took the market by storm. By the early nineties WordPerfect was no longer the de facto standard. Today the WordPerfect file format is supported by only one operating system: Microsoft Windows. All the other operating systems stopped supporting WordPerfect by the start of the 21st century.

How to prevent your old company documents from becoming inaccessible?

With the WordPerfect saga in mind there really is no telling which file formats are destined to stay and are therefore the best option for preservation and archiving purposes. Luckily there are other measures you can take to assure accessibility to all your business documents in the near and far future. We recommend organizations to refresh their outdated digital enterprise documents. By updating the file format of older documents to the latest version you keep these documents readable and editable in the future. And if some of your documents are already obsolete, you can still update them to a file format that is currently being supported. That way you ensure yourself with sustainable business data that can be used by your employees in the coming years and decades.

The benefits of backlog conversion and OCR

The productivity of an organization is correlated with the efficiency and speed at which you can find and use valuable business data. By performing a backlog conversion to digitize your old paper documents and to refresh your old digital documents, you take an important step towards an efficient data management. And to really get the most out of it, you better convert your documents to a file format that allows you to quickly scan and search the content of the documents. This is where Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software comes in.

OCR software converts scanned or photographed documents to an electronic file that appears just like the original, with the extra benefit that your content is searchable. This opens up a range of new possibilities for the management of your business information.

The end result is that searching, storing, organizing and online displaying of information will become easier, faster and more efficient. Many people find that through backlog conversion and OCR technology, they are able to retrieve information that was assumed to be lost. It is even possible to insert text from a document directly into Word, thus adding a whole new level of functionality. You can easily cut and paste the text that has been converted.

DocShifter- Digital Preservation Solution

At Docshifter we understand the risks of file format obsolescence and inaccessible organizational data. That is why we have added backlog conversion – and document refreshing functionalities to our DocShifter software.

It is a server based solution that allows you to convert any source format to any other format. The list of file formats that are supported by DocShifter seems endless. And even if you need a file format that is not included, the DocShifter platform can easily be extended thanks to its modular plug-and-play concept. This means you are safe and set for the future!

Another strong feature of DocShifter is that it works independent of the native applications of source- and goal file formats. So you do not have to worry about the costs of expensive software tools and licenses.