September 7, 2016

Know Your Archive, Part 2

As we said in last week’s post, Crawford Technologies will be publishing a series of articles and recordings over the coming weeks that, when viewed together, will provide a comprehensive review of the technology that underpins an enterprise archive. Last week we looked at the early days of archive technology and how ‘The Legacy Problem’ can affect the changes that businesses want to make today. In this week’s post, we bring you up to date and let you know what you can expect from this series going forward.

Today’s Challenges

The proliferation of full color digital print, and the need to embed document resources that support end user print and view options is understood and supported by all of today’s document composition packages. A side effect of this, however, has been a ballooning of the amount of data that is being archived. When resources are stored ‘in document’ in an archive, then for every document stored the resources are stored over and over again. Even though comparatively cheap storage options mean that this is not necessarily prohibitive, from a cost perspective there are a number of performance penalties for continually processing data in this way.

So, what is AFP and how will understanding it help to solve the challenge?

AFP or Advanced Function Presentation is the de-facto high volume transactional printing standard. It was defined by IBM in the mid 1980s to drive their printers at a time when printers were connected like disk drives to a central processing unit – the mainframe. It is now defined, as an open standard, by the AFP consortium.

AFP comprises many areas, ranging from IPDS (Intelligent Printer Data Stream) a bi-directional protocol for interfacing to printers, to the recently approved ISO standard for long term archiving - AFP/A. Once the underlying architecture is understood, it becomes possible to extract content and resources from a file, enabling conversion to another format. For example, the AFP can be transformed to a to a PDF, with a dot-for-dot likeness and resolution more suited to today’s business processes, where repeatedly accessing documents in both print and electronic formats with less performance penalties is a necessity.

What will I learn in this series?

Our aim in this series is to help you understand the richness of AFP, the ease with which it can be converted and repurposed, and the benefits that doing so will bring you. We will review how it can be the basis for document reengineering that addresses the challenges of today’s archives and will introduce you to the terminology and techniques required to index and transform it. We will also look at its importance when migrating an archive. We believe that when you understand and benefit from the architecture of AFP you can more fully realize the value of the information that you hold.