Scanning and Storing PDF’s can be a Dangerous Practice

I think scanning your paperwork and storing them as PDF’s on your server isn’t much better than just keeping the paper!  Now, many of you who have read other articles I have written or who have talked to me, know that I am totally sold on document imaging technology.  So, why am I saying that scanning isn’t a whole lot better?  Because the reason we store documents, either paper or digitally, is so that we can find them when we need them.

Can’t find the file:

If you are scanning and storing PDF’s on a drive, it often becomes difficult to find the document you want.  You have to know the name of the document you need.  This is not evident at first when you begin scanning, because you have only a few documents.  But, as time goes on, you have many documents, and not knowing the exact name, you may have to open each one at a time until you find the one you want.  This is not much different that rummaging through a four-drawer filing cabinet and it is just as time- consuming.

PDF’s can be a security risk:

I think using PDF’s as your archival format is not a good business decision because your PDF’s may contain dangerous code execution vulnerability or malware.  For example, a flaw in Adobe 8.1 could allow hackers to include dangerous code in PDF files to take control of Window XP computers.  For more details see:  If you think this is an isolated case where PDF’s may be a risk, read this article:

Can’t open PDF file:

Not long ago, I tried to open a PDF that was an important contract a client sent me.  I got the following message on my computer monitor:  “There was an error opening this document. The file is damaged and could not be repaired.”  I did a Google search on “corrupt PDF” and found nearly 1,000,000 hits.  I found that there are programs to repair corrupt files and even companies that specialize in attempting to recover severely corrupted files.  Luckily, the client was able to find a copy of the PDF that was not corrupt; otherwise, the details of the contract could have been permanently lost.

Can’t secure the PDF files:

Storing your important documents on your network seems very easy.  You can even develop a good directory structure that makes storing and filing PDF’s a snap.  But, securing it is much more difficult.  How do you keep someone from renaming, moving, viewing (if they shouldn’t have access), or editing archived PDF documents? 

I recently met with an organization that had done a wonderful job scanning their important documents and storing them in a very organized manner on their network.  They had a new employee who was assigned the task of scanning.  Everything was going just fine until someone could not find an important document.  It was then that they noticed that many files had been inadvertently moved to the wrong directories.  They didn’t have a naming convention, index, or anything that could help them determine which files were in wrong directories.  They had a mess on their hands.

I did a little Google ™ searching to see what others are saying about using pdf’s and here is what I found:

 “pdf are crap”  4,830,000 hits

 “‘pdf unreadable” 5,770,000 hits 

“pdf corrupt” 6,940,000 hits

“pdf suck” 7,830,000 hits

“pdf terrible” 11,800,000 hits

“hate pdf” 27,000,000 hits

“pdf evil” 34,000,000 hits

“pdf are bad” 169,000,000 hits

So, what is the answer?

I don’t know how many times I have been told “I don’t need a document imaging system, I store my documents on PDF’s on my network.”  Remember, the reason you are storing documents is to find them when you need them!  Document imaging systems allow you to find a document quickly without knowing the name or where it is stored.  With indexes and full-text search capability, in just seconds you have the document you need. 


Larry Phelps

Solbrekk, Inc

Minneapolis, Minnesota



PS:  Free Consultation:  If you would like to see how Laserfiche Document Imaging software would help you store your important documents, please contact me at 612-382-4069 or email me at