Information Governance: The Shortcomings of eDiscovery without Archiving

All too often, when organizations become involved in eDiscovery, their sole focus tends to be on dealing with the current situation, and little thought is given to how to better prepare in advance for future eDiscovery matters.  This is certainly understandable since the legal and financial consequences of the current legal issue can be significant, but it is short sighted and can lead to significantly more costs in the future.  Eventually, many forward-looking organizations arrive at the same conclusion: that proactively consolidating data in an information archiving solution in advance of litigation pays off dividends and will help streamline eDiscovery and lower total risk and cost over time.  Let’s examine why.

 

Typically legal and IT teams frantically try to identify, collect, and process potentially responsive data to prepare for document review.  For those organizations which lack a comprehensive archiving solution, they begin to realize that is difficult to locate and isolate all of the data pertaining to the matter.  When collecting email, organizations very often collect a custodian’s complete mailbox and personal email files such as PST’s/NSF’s if possible, but since these files are rarely under the full control of IT or legal, the organization cannot always collect this data.  The drawback to collecting an entire mailbox is that most of the data will not be responsive to the case. 

 

The organization will instead incur significant additional cost and time processing or reviewing documents that have no bearing on the matter.  With archiving, all data can be consolidated and maintained within a repository fully managed by the organization.  No longer are unauthorized PST’s/NSF’s out in the wild, and less time is spent hunting for data across multiple servers, file shares, laptops, or personal devices.  Retention policies and legal holds can also be strictly enforced to ensure all data relevant to a case is not inadvertently disposed, and can be easily collected for review.

 

Some organizations will attempt to cull the data using the search functions of their email server.  The issue here is that email servers have very limited eDiscovery functionality to effectively cull the data.  Without the advanced search methods available with robust archiving solutions including conceptual, proximity, stemming, filtering/grouping within result sets, and information analytics, it is difficult to efficiently and effectively isolate responsive data.  Obviously without these in-house capabilities organizations also will have little ability to perform early case assessment to determine whether they have a case, or what the potential risk is to the company.

 

There is also the question surrounding the chain-of-custody of ad hoc eDiscovery.  For instance, some email servers on their own do not conduct a cryptographic hash of all incoming data from an external system, or enable the prerequisite audit trails to ensure chain-of-custody.  To avoid any potential of spoliation it is critical to employ an archiving system which hashes all data in order to verify that the documents and its metadata have not been altered in any way.

 

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The email server is a mission-critical application that is already burdened with managing email for hundreds or thousands of users.  Leveraging the email server as an archive, eDiscovery and legal hold system only further increases its workload and reduces its performance.  When performing eDiscovery additional IT resources are required to help manage and run the searches across IT systems, and many times is a very iterative process.  With a dedicated archiving solution the eDiscovery process can be managed completely independent of mission-critical systems.  Data can be separately indexed without bloating the email server, complex searches can be run without taxing ongoing email processes, and with a purpose-built archiving system the legal users can manage the process rather than wholly relying on the IT department.

 

These are just a few of the problems organizations experience when performing eDiscovery on email data without a supporting archiving system, as other information sources including structured data, IM, social, audio and video present even greater challenges in the eDiscovery process.  In some cases, organizations begin to understand the value of archiving and its benefits after experiencing a difficult eDiscovery matter.  The efficiency, cost savings, risk reduction, and most importantly, the intelligence and insight an organization can achieve with the support of archiving cannot be ignored.  Even so, many others will continue the cycle of tackling eDiscovery without the support of an information archiving solution with the notion that their current processes and procedures are good enough…at least until they incur the negative consequences brought on by inadequate eDiscovery.

 

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About the Author
Luis Romero is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at HP Autonomy, where he leads product marketing for HP’s Information Archiving solutions....


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