Electronically stored information (ESI) is growing at an exponential rate. It is stored on corporate servers, laptops, shared network drives, smartphones, tablets and even extending beyond the corporate walls to cloud repositories like Dropbox, Box and other storage media. These extended repositories might be sanctioned and more often are unsanctioned by the corporation. This creates an environment of digital storage that is uncontrolled, managed by individual users, and hopes of finding information when it is needed. Even when products like SharePoint have been implemented to get control over the uncontrolled, the result is typically the creation of an environment of contained information chaos, due to the lack of governance over the information and use of the technology.
Imagine your organization having to produce electronic information for civil litigation or regulatory audit. Now imagine that as part of this process, you must find all relevant information including email, audio/video files, spreadsheets, and more. Where do you search? Do you search your network servers, individual PCs, Mobile devices, and removable storage devices like thumb drives or is it all of the above? Documented cases have shown it is all of the above and that if you do not comply with the request, the fines and costs levied could be significant.
Disconnected repositories for different content types such as email, create their own problems when it comes to legal discovery processes and the application of legal or litigation holds to prevent discoverable content being deleted as part of the end-of-retention period process. Every organization is responsible to comply with discovery requests in civil litigation, the question is how prepared is the organization to comply? When faced with eDiscovery, organizations must be able to produce the materials, defend how it is maintained, retained and disposed of. When a discovery order is received, the organization needs to have established and consistent processes on placing a legal hold to suspend disposal and commence gathering, filtering and delivery of the requested materials.
Ignorance of regulation and poor content and records management practices are no excuse for non-compliance. Organizations must be proactive in establishing policies and procedures and providing tools and training employees need to ensure corporate compliance. Technology will help enable us to reach and maintain compliance but it must be viewed as a tool to support the policies and practices the organization has adopted within its information management structure and governance.
There are eDiscovery applications and technology enabling organizations to pull information and records from the massive volumes spanning an enterprise, including emails and eliminate exact copies to reduce the effort and cost of reviewing the remaining content. The costs and management of eDiscovery actions can be lowered and managed more effectively using a combination of information governance, designed and consistent business processes, and technology to automate wherever possible. Once the required information has been identified, collected, and sorted, it must be preserved and stored for safekeeping. In an on-premise scenario, use of durable electronic media is chosen to preserve the information over long periods. Additionally, there is a requirement for sharing this information in a collaborative way between legal staff, business manager, and any party involved in the litigation, presenting an access and authorization challenge.
In My View
Many organizations lack focus and do not understand the benefit and advantage they gain through optimization of their information management practices in relation to litigation support. In many cases, you will find at minimum, duplicate files – or even up to hundreds of files with the same titles – residing in the vast silos of storage strewn about the enterprise. These not only cost you in the area of systems administration, they also put you at risk and increase your eDiscovery costs when required to find and present information related to an audit or litigation. Someone has to sift through the mountain of content to determine relevance, produce it and present it to the courts or auditors.
Get control over your content, identify what information has business value and manage it properly. Information that is redundant, out of date, or trivial – referred to as ROT – should be removed from your repositories. Leverage technology that supports your information management practices in ways that enable you to find the information you need, when you need it and position your organization to be defensible when it comes time to face the Judge.
Bob Larrivee is President and Founder of Bob Larrivee Consultancy, a recognized expert in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement, and Journalist on Information Technology for Document Strategy. In his career, Bob has led many projects and authored hundreds of eBooks, Industry Reports, Blogs, Articles, and Infographics. In addition, he has served as host and guest Subject Matter Expert on a wide variety of Webinars, Podcasts, Virtual Events, and lectured at in-person seminars and conferences around the globe.