Microfilm alternatives are quite a lot these days it seems. With the development of digital tools, it seems microfilm alternatives are just growing and growing. Computers have greater computing power and costs are at a fraction.

If you consider the cost of 1 mb today, it would seem the decision should be pretty straightforward. But all is not what it seems as with everything. When we consider legal aspects, we have to take into account what works. Yes, things change at an alarming pace, but we recommend seeing things in perspective.

We don’t look at it like a microfilm vs digital all out war. It is considering each aspect and each need, and see what suits it best. You should understand what positives and negatives you should look for. Let’s breakdown some aspects for this topic and see where we stand.


Microfilm in the perspective of current microfilm alternatives

Yes, microfilm has been here for a long time. Depending on who you ask, they will either tell you it’s dead or it’s still extremely critical. We don’t really understand why the views are at such extremes. We always saw this field as based on the actual needs of the customer. Microfilm has a lot of strengths. It has high longevity. With a lifespan of over 500 years on the LE 500 film, you really can’t do better.

Then we face the question of forgery. Forging microfilm is next to impossible. The reason is quite simple. And with simplicity comes strength. The actual process of forging is so time consuming, that it can be quite a handful. I don’t think we ever had such issues with customers, or such worries from them. Legal aspects are of interest also. Most governments regard microfilm as a legal media to archive on.


Divisive aspects on microfilm and microfilm alternatives

We can’t be totally blind to evolution. In the past we also used microfilm as a good space saving method. While this is true, we have to revisit the issue. With an estimate of 2500 images on a 16mm roll, it is a really good alternative to a paper archiving. But here comes the big competition from digital.

With servers now easily capable of storing hundreds of TB of data, competition seems pretty stiff. Here we have to revisit the purpose of microfilm in an archive. From a legal standpoint, microfilm is similar to paper. At the same time, paper is still required for certain legal aspects. It’s understandable to think microfilm is still an option.

We are still waiting for total digitization to kick in. Until then, we still have to manage papers and microfilm will fit right in. But the next paragraph will make you think again.


Digitization is one of the microfilm alternatives

We do understand paper is still used, especially for archiving purposes. Microfilm can come in an replace the paper archives. But you start wondering why are you not using the full digital power you have? Well legal aspects are clear, digital is still somewhere in the middle. Our team sees that the mix of microfilm and digital provides the best results.

We are not blind. We know that digital data is easy to store and access. So we always recommend customers to use digital as a day by day tool. While we would love to microfilm everything, we know we have to provide value.

For customers, value is when they have the best of both worlds. It should not be hard for them to find information, but at the same time legal aspects have to be respected. Also, we recommend they microfilm only what is necessary.


Digitization and microfilm can work together

We recommend to think of digitization not as one of the microfilm alternatives. While it may be tempting to do this, we still advise against it. The process we always take is talking to customers before the actual work. We split documents in two categories, such as workflow and legal. Because microfilming is done using digital files, the customer still needs a digital copy of all of them.

Using tags generated in the indexing phase, we then send for microfilming all the legally critical documents. These are usually structured in a logical manner. Retrieval can be done very easily and we try to offer it like this every time. Customers can now work day by day with the digital files. Also, they know they have a legally binding copy on microfilm. So we consider this a win win situation. It also keeps the internal workflow of documents.


Combining the digital workflow with microfilm

As we mentioned earlier, don’t necessarily go for microfilm alternatives, try an bundle technologies. We don’t recommend involving microfilm in the day to day document workflows. Unless it’s critical, try and avoid it.

We do however recommend microfilming the documents that have legal value. Try and see the value in this as it saves you of potential issues down the line. If you think further, any issue with a lost document or file, will significantly change your day to day workflow. While this is temporary it is still painful.

The stress of finding, retrieving or understanding where that document is coming from is not necessary. With microfilm as a back-up, you know where to go and find what you are looking for. You don’t need to disrupt the current workflow in finding that. In today’s world it is all about streamlining processes.


Conclusions on microfilm alternatives

  • In the current digital era, everyone is talking about digitization as one of the microfilm alternatives.
  • These technologies work better at peace than at war. Combine them for the best results.
  • Don’t expect one to do everything the other does. You can’t archive for long term on digital while you can’t work day to day with microfilm.
  • Separate them based on strengths. Microfilm has a 500 year old lifespan. It is best suited for archiving.
  • Digital is evolving massively everyday. Focusing on it too much, might find you obsolete the next day.
  • Use standard file formats for digitization. Microfilm retrieving is only improving, and it will be possible in the future also.
  • Software evolves so much, that sometimes you can’t retrieve older information as systems are not compatible anymore.
  • Ask suppliers for good study cases. Others are doing it and have been doing it. Learn from their experience.


You should check this article on why the national archive of the US still microfilms.

A further read can be our article on microfilming advantages and disadvantages.

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