SAE et GED, quelles différences ?

Electronic archiving goes further than simple preservation

Electronic archiving: conservation is just one part of a bigger picture. Electronic archiving is much more than simply a process of information storage and sharing. It guarantees trust in documents and aims to ensure that they are legally admissible throughout this conservation period.

 

It is important to make a clear distinction between on the one hand an EDMS, which is an information management system that can classify, organise and share documents, enables collaboration with a view to creating documents, and allows for document versioning; and on the other hand, electronic archiving, the purpose of which is to guarantee the integrity, availability, confidentiality and sustainability over time of “finalised” electronic documents. Electronic archiving is thus much more than simply a process of information storage and sharing. It guarantees trust in documents and aims to ensure that they are legally admissible throughout this conservation period.

 

Electronic archiving: conservation is just one part of a bigger picture

Electronic archiving is much more than simply a process of information storage and sharing. It guarantees trust in documents and aims to ensure that they are legally admissible throughout this conservation period. Electronic archiving with probatory value in an Electronic Archiving System (EAS) goes much further than merely the passive “conservation” of files on disks or in an electronic document management system (EDMS). Many organisations have not fully grasped this nuance and continue to confuse the two types of tool. Yet they are very different, both in terms of usage and functionality, and actually complement each other. It is important to make a clear distinction between on the one hand an EDMS, which is an information management system that can classify, organise and share documents, enables collaboration with a view to creating documents, and allows for document versioning; and on the other hand, electronic archiving, the purpose of which is to guarantee the integrity, availability, confidentiality and sustainability over time of “finalised” electronic documents. Electronic archiving is thus much more than simply a process of information storage and sharing. It guarantees trust in documents and aims to ensure that they are legally admissible throughout this conservation period.

 

Storage vs integrity, sustainability and traceability

With the rapid growth of the cloud and proliferation of replication and backup software, IT services give the impression that they can easily conserve the information in their document repositories over a long period. But this absolutely does not equate to archiving, which is designed to ensure legal compliance and the sustainability of assets. Only an EAS can provide a secure digital environment that guarantees the integrity and sustainability of an organisation’s probative documents and the traceability of document lifecycle events.

 

Sustainability of formats and document legibility

For a document to be archived, it must necessarily be transferred to an archiving system. During this operation, the document must first, if the file format used requires it, be converted into a sustainable format (e.g. PDF/A) along with its descriptive information (metadata) and encapsulated applications (e.g. XML), and the necessary conservation period must be specified. In order to ensure that the whole historic context is conserved, enough information on access permissions and/or the confidentiality of the archive must be added. For archived documents to be sustainable and legible, file formats need to be used that will remain legible over the long term, but technical checks and approvals must also be carried out on the files when they are transferred. This is a mandatory procedure in order to ensure that the archived documents can be “reread” over time.

 

EAS certification

While compliance with document archiving standards is very important, it must not be based on a purely “declarative” process: the provider must be able to demonstrate compliance, which requires NF461 certification. If a company has an EDMS, users will be able to see an icon representing the document. If the document is disputed, users can click on the icon to view the original file archived in the EAS along with the associated pieces of evidence (electronic signature, integrity verification report, electronic signature validation report, etc.).

 

The specific case of electronic signature

In any situation, it must be possible to demonstrate that a document already existed at a “certain” date, i.e. a date that cannot be altered by the administrator of the network or software used for conservation. The integrity of the archives, or potentially the chain of archives, must also be ensured, in order to guard against any destruction (including through user error), insertion or malicious operation. Electronically signed documents in particular require prior signature validation (without which validation is no longer possible once the electronic certificate used for signature is 2 or 3 years old). They also demand technological monitoring, with a number of actions to be taken during the conservation phase. These may include, in order to ensure that the algorithm used in signature does not become obsolete and is not compromised, the addition of a second signature layer using a new algorithm that improves security and performance.

 

Evidential record and reversibility

The advantage of electronic archiving over an EDMS also lies in the completeness and quality of the evidential record (traceability/logging of events, proof of integrity, certain date, algorithm used, etc.). As regards reversibility, this of course means returning the file but also all elements necessary to maintain probatory value and traceability.

 

Enhanced security

An EAS will protect a company's documents, including against malicious acts by internal figures or errors by users who have delete permissions. First of all, an EAS allows you to perform regular integrity checks on all archived documents, so that any loss of integrity and therefore the non-admissibility of a document is detected before it needs to be returned or a dispute occurs. Secondly, with an EAS, integrity reports on a given archive can be initiated manually before the archive is shared with the company's legal department or an outside firm in the event of a dispute or inspection. Lastly, if the EAS is NF461 certified, destruction is “managed” and can only be put into effect in several stages with various levels of validation.

 

An EDMS and an EAS are complementary

It is therefore important not to confuse a cloud-based file hosting system or EDMS with a long-term electronic archiving system. The former is a “commodity” designed to make everyday business organisation easier, while the latter is a key plank in a company’s electronic document sustainability and compliance strategy. The most significant difference is that an EAS offers the guarantee of integrity and authenticity, confirming that files have not been altered. It is impossible to substitute one for the other. Each has its own specific features and functionalities which make them complementary tools.

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