The Challenge of Historical Corporate Collections, Leveraging Legal Demands - Part 2 of 2
In my last blog we talked about how legal and regulatory demands could be leveraged to provide a mandate and funding to acquire broader enterprise search, collection, archiving and compliance systems. Now we will walk through some of the systems and how they can be applied to address eDiscovery requests to justify their deployment. In these challenging economic times, budgets are tighter than ever, but if you understand how much even a small discovery event can cost, enterprise wide applications make a lot of sense.
Enterprise Search - Most corporate file servers have literally decades of accumulated unstructured Electronically Stored Information hidden in directories that no one understands or owns. Tackling this sea of data can cost more than the potential liability of the matter. Inside counsel have traditionally dealt with this by collecting and searching only directories actively associated with named custodians and praying that they have not missed anything vital. To give them credit, the likelihood of critical, relevant information being found in the non-custodial directories is generally low. But some cases do not have clearly defined custodians and can span the lifetime of the corporation. Indexing the enterprise enables counsel to search some of their content sources. Best of all, it arms inside counsel with the ability to actively run test searches to make reasonableness arguments in meet and confer sessions. It is important to assess a search engines scope and know what types and locations that it covers. Few search engines cover voice, video and other non-standard content like Autonomy's IDOL platform. Inside counsel would also benefit from conceptual analysis on profile core data sets to validate search criteria. These search platforms add overhead and do not come cheap, but a single shareholder suit could justify the expense, especially if your corporate insurer is willing take a longer view.
Archiving Platforms - Enterprise archiving platforms can provide the greatest initial ROI for defensible collection and preservation of the messaging environment. Archives are not a solution unto themselves, but they can be a good start. Legal needs a way to immediately preserve all email associated with a business unit while they assess potential risk around a possible litigation. IT could just keep the nightly incremental back up tapes, but that would still miss any email delivered and deleted the same day. Putting the custodians on notice gets a measure of defensibility, but how do you check to make sure that your users are complying when the case could go on for months or years? IT could enable Exchange Journaling to catch all traffic, but then they have to save the accumulating email somewhere off of Exchange before they break the bank. An archive provides an immediate repository with the ability to search and apply legal holds on the message stream. Archives are just expanding to file shares and other content, so you should carefully evaluate their collection and search mechanisms before relying on them for legal preservation.
Endpoint Security/Real Time Policy - Although these file control systems are relatively new, they have a great deal of potential beyond the obvious data leakage prevention and corporate computer usage enforcement. One of the biggest issues with the traditional legal hold notification methods is actually enforcing rules on users. These systems use a servlet or root level service to apply content level filters and actions even when users are disconnected with the network. Imagine being able to tell the Judge that you pushed out a preservation policy when first notified of the matter that ensured that users could not delete, copy or otherwise spoil evidence that matched the rules? Now imagine IT being able to actually get rid of all the MP3 and AVI files on the network without manual sweeps.
There are many more enterprise applications that can be dual purposed for eDiscovery and business benefits. Desktop search can help users find and designate ESI. Firewall and spam systems can actually be used to collect IM conversations. Content Management Systems expand the potential search/preservation criteria and can decrease the potential volume of ESI by enabling active expiry of unnecessary items. The important thing is to think beyond point solutions and bring legal, business and IT to the table to extract the greatest value from the 'cost of doing business' in America.